Oklahoma's two largest universities brought in more money last year through technology licenses than in the previous year, according to a new survey.
The annual survey, conducted by the Association of University Technology Managers, shows both Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma saw their technology transfer revenue grow during the 2010-2011 fiscal year.
Technology transfer is the process by which universities patent and license technology that was developed by university researchers. Universities generally either sell those licenses to existing businesses or establish new spinoff companies to produce the technology. In both cases, the university earns revenue.
According to the survey, OSU earned about $1.7 million in technology transfer revenue during the 2010-2011 fiscal year, up from $1.4 million the previous year.
OU brought in $852,177 in technology transfer earnings during the same fiscal year, up from $430,000 the previous year.
Nationwide, the survey showed healthy growth in the number of inventions universities licensed. During the 2010-2011 fiscal year, universities nationwide executed 4,899 licenses, a 14 percent increase from the previous year.
During the same fiscal year, universities nationwide raised a combined $2.5 billion in technology transfer revenue, a 2.6 percent increase over the previous fiscal year.
Oklahoma Secretary of Science and Technology Stephen McKeever said universities support the state's economy when they commercialize their research.
The economic impact of any invention a university licenses goes well beyond the amount of revenue the university brings in, McKeever said. Typically, he said, universities receive about 5 percent of the total sales revenue from the product, he said. So if a university brings in $2 million in royalties, the total economic impact of the new technology is about $40 million.
Many of the licenses go to Oklahoma companies, which boosts the state's technology-based economic development efforts.
“It creates good jobs,” he said.
McKeever, who is also OSU's vice president for research and technology transfer, said the university brings in technology transfer in a number of areas. One of the fastest-growing areas is the development of microbes for use in food supplements.
The biggest market for those microbes is in cattle feed, McKeever said. Supplements help cattle digest food, he said, converting that food into meat more quickly and effectively.
“That is an enormous market,” he said.
When the university licenses a new piece of technology, McKeever said, the money it raises is divided between the university and the inventors. The university's half of the money is distributed between the research group and the university's Technology Development Center, which assists faculty, staff, administrators and students with intellectual property issues that arise from their research.
Daniel Pullin, OU's vice president for strategic planning and economic development, said the university sees technology-based research coming from “all corners of the university's creative pursuits.”
According to OU Board of Regents policy, revenues raised are divided between the inventors and the university. The portion that goes to the university is doled out to a number of areas, including the college that produced the invention, the office of the vice president for research and the office of technology development.