2019 Annual Licensing Activity Survey

Academic Research Institutions Pursue More Non-traditional Funding Sources and Partnerships to Develop Innovations, Study Shows

WASHINGTON, DC – February 28, 2021 – Research institutions posted increased funding which could lead to the next generation of academic intellectual property, according to AUTM’s Annual Licensing Activity Survey, which polls US universities, hospitals and other institutions.

The key findings of AUTM’s 2019 Annual Licensing Activity Survey:

  • Total research expenditures grew to $77.2 billion, an increase of 7.7% over 2018, and a nearly 16% increase over the past five years.
  • 1,040 start-ups were formed in 2019, directly impacting local economies, with more than 73% of the new businesses remaining in their institution’s home state.
  • 711 new consumer products born from academic research entered the market.
  • 7,528 US patents were issued in 2019 as research institutions invest in and protect intellectual property arising from academic research.

Federally Funded Research Is Vital

Although the 2019 survey looks back at the technology transfer landscape just prior to the global pandemic, the COVID-19 outbreak has made it clear that the technology transfer profession has a unique role to play in speeding the delivery of solutions to society. Every year, universities across the United States develop inventions – more than 490,000 in the last 25 years – from life-saving treatments to protective gear for front-line healthcare workers.

With its passage in 1980, the Bayh-Dole Act became a catalyst for this innovation. The historic legislation unlocked taxpayer-funded discoveries made in universities, hospitals and other research institutions. However, the share of funding from federal dollars has fallen to 51%, from more than 70% when the survey was first published in 1991. The declining share in federal funding could spell trouble; less funding results in fewer inventions downstream.

“Now more than ever, we need our policymakers and legislators to continue providing a robust framework that supports strong research funding and a reliable intellectual property environment, to efficiently move breakthrough discoveries to the marketplace for years to come,” said AUTM CEO Steve Susalka.

Finding Fresh Ways to Fund Research

As federal and industrial funding have remained relatively flat over the past five years, the Survey data shows institutions are successfully pursuing more non-traditional funding sources and partnerships. The biggest funding change in 2019 came from non-classified research dollars, which can include internal institution funding as well as support from nonprofits and state governments, up more than 29% from 2018 and an increase of 46% over the past five years.

Broadening Reach with Non-exclusives

The number of non-exclusive licenses ─ which allow any number of licensees to use the same intellectual property ─ and options topped 5,600 in 2019, more than twice the number of exclusive licenses. Tech transfer offices are getting more creative, branching into areas such as data and software.

“This trend bears watching in light of legal changes that may negatively affect the strength of patents,” said Ragan Roberson, Chair of AUTM’s Metrics and Surveys portfolio, which produces the Survey.

Building Entrepreneurial Ecosystems

Tech transfer institutions formed 1,007 start-ups based on university intellectual property. This high level of start-up formation underscores a continued focus on local entrepreneurial ecosystems.

To read more about this year’s findings, visit: autm.net/licensingsurvey

About the Survey

The AUTM Licensing Activity Survey gathered data from 176 research institutions. With 29 years of collected data, the AUTM Licensing Survey provides the definitive benchmark for measuring the impact of academic research innovation. The survey is available on the AUTM website. Also available is AUTM’s technology transfer infographic on driving the innovation economy. If you’d like to go beyond the data provided in the Survey, consider AUTM’s STATT Database.

About AUTM

AUTM is the non-profit leader in efforts to educate, promote and inspire professionals to support the development of academic research that changes the world and drives innovation forward. Our community is comprised of more than 3,000 members who work in more than 800 universities, research centers, hospitals, businesses and government organizations around the globe. To learn more about AUTM, visit www.autm.net.

Media Contact

For more information or an interview, please contact:
Paul Stark
AUTM Marketing and Communications Director
[email protected]

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