Study finds USF has heavy impact on local economy


USF research may have a $400 million reach into the Florida economy, according to an impact report from the Washington Economic Group.

The economic impact report done by the Washington Economic Group, a third-party organization that looks at the impact of different organizations in different areas, shows that the USF Innovation Enterprise has an almost $400 million annual impact on the Florida economy each year.

The Innovation Enterprise is made up of the USF Research Park and the work that goes on in it, as well as the Technology Transfer Office (TTO) and the Tampa Bay Technology Incubator (TBTI), according to Senior Vice President of Research Paul Sanberg.

The TTO deals with companies who want to license USF technologies. The TBTI provides support for university, student and community start-ups during the beginning of their commercialization.

“The University of South Florida (USF) has become a leader in cutting-edge research and commercialization of new products, technology incubation and partnerships in the State of Florida and nationwide,” the report said. “This positive development generates significant economic development impacts for the Tampa Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and throughout Florida.”

Sanberg said he was pleasantly surprised by the figure and the fact that it shows the Innovation Enterprise has both a direct and indirect impact on the state and the community. It was also important, he said, to get a baseline.

“If we want to improve ourselves, we need to know what our baseline is at this point so that as we do additional work in this area … we want to be able to show that we’ve improved things, and so, having a baseline, to me, was very important,” Sanberg said.

He said he hopes to see the impact increase in the future.

The $400 million number comes from the evaluation of multiple different factors. The impact looks at average salary jobs created by the different entities in the enterprise. The report found that they were knowledge-based jobs that were fairly high paying.

The report also looked at the effect on household income, as employees spend their money on housing and other goods and services and taxes.

“(The impact report) looks at these dollars and looks at how those dollars expand out into the community and really have an effect in the community,” he said.

The Innovation Enterprise is about research that is applied outside of the basic sciences. Sanberg gave the example of research one might do on a receptor in the human brain. One might study the receptor and publish research about what that receptor does. However, one might continue that research in developing a drug that effects that receptor, and once that shift happens, the work becomes part of the enterprise.

“It’s about more invention and innovation than basic science per say,” he said.

Sanberg said he feels that as a university, involvement in the community is a must have and said he thinks other universities should take a look at how they impact their communities when it comes to the area of innovation.

“We need to help our communities and help the economy and it’s not just about paying salaries of employees here, students paying tuition,” he said. “It’s really also about taking our discoveries, taking the ability to help other companies in the community to do better and to become a better economic engine.

"So that’s what we’re looking at now is what kind of economic engine are we in that area, and this is going to be very important, I think, in coming years because it really is about us becoming a significant partner, all universities becoming a significant partner in their communities where they live to help our economy.”