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USF needs to do moreto promote inventors

Research and invention can do a lot to advance a university’s name – and it can also be quite lucrative. Faced with budget cuts, USF should be doing all it can to promote potentially profitable endeavors.

University research around the country in areas like medicine, plant genetics and alternative energy led to a high number of patents, licensing agreements and spin-off companies, according to an analysis by the Chronicle of Higher Education, which on Monday published data from the Association of University Technology Managers survey.

Of the 154 universities in the survey, inventors filed for more than 10,700 patents and made 4,350 licensing deals allowing companies to use their inventions.

To market their innovations, university researchers formed a record 543 spin-off companies. The universities surveyed and its inventors collectively raked in more than $2.3 billion in licensing revenue.

Four universities made more than $100 million, and 28 made more than $10 million. Forty-two – including USF – earned between $1 million and $5 million.

USF, one of the top 63 public research universities in the U.S., did well, earning more than $1.8 million in licensing income and signing 28 new agreements to bring its total active licenses to 121. However, the University still has lots of room for growth.

The institution that profited the most in 2008, with about $824.4 million, was Northwestern University. Most of that came from royalties for the pain drug Lyrica, according to the Chronicle.

USF may have its own money-making drug on its hands after researchers developed a new antidepressant drug and licensed it to Targacept, a biopharmaceutical company, to develop the drug for manufacturer, AstraZeneca.

USF could receive millions of dollars from the deal. The University and the state know the potential the invention holds.

Part of the Florida Board of Governor’s multibillion-dollar “New Florida” education initiative proposed this year would increase research funding at state universities by $500 million annually.

The University founded an Academy of Inventors last year to recognize researchers and help them seek patents, said Paul Sanberg, associate vice president for Innovation for the USF Office of Research and Innovation.

Not every invention can be a huge success, however, and in the recession, companies are less willing to take risks investing in new innovations, especially those still in early stages of development. New Florida calls for an increased investment from state lawmakers, and the timing may not be right.

But USF can always do more to market its researchers to potential supporters. The University of Maryland created its own YouTube channel for inventors to make videos and promote its research directly to businesses.

Successful licensing deals lead to more money for research. USF should continue to make steps to innovate in this area in a time when every dollar counts.