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New Ranking: USF is 13th Among Large Universities in Innovation Impact Productivity

USF Research & Innovation

Report from the Bush Institute and Opus Faveo comes as USF posts record technology transfer numbers for 2019-20 and works to address COVID-19 challenges.

TAMPA, Fla.  – A report that examines the productivity of American research universities in generating innovations that drive the economy ranks the University of South Florida at 13th among the nation’s largest comprehensive research institutions.

The study from the George W. Bush Institute, the policy arm of the Bush Presidential Center, and Opus Faveo Innovation Development, a venture development firm, ranked 195 public and private American institutions on a series of metrics from research and innovation activities. With American universities spending an estimate $75 billion a year on research and innovation, institutions of higher education are a significant force in driving economic growing and raising the standard of living in communities nationwide, the report’s authors said.

Among large comprehensive universities—a collection of 54 institutions with an average annual research spending between $333 million and $5 billion—USF’s innovation impact productivity score placed it at 13th, joining a field of prestigious and storied institutions such as the California Institute of Technology, the University of Chicago and New York University. The University of Florida ranked first among this select group.

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“As a world-class research university, the University of South Florida is proud to be recognized as a leader for the productivity of our faculty and impact of our research,” said USF President Steve Currall. “Our abundance of faculty excellence—combined with a unique spirit of discovery and innovation—allows us to address society’s most pressing needs.”

The report was issued as USF’s Technology Transfer Office posted a record year for invention disclosures and new startups—including a surge of innovations to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the fiscal year that ended June 30, USF researchers disclosed 189 new inventions (up from 173 in 2018-19) and executed 102 licensing and option agreements (up from 98 in 2018-19). USF’s innovative faculty formed 11 start-ups, up from six the previous year.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak this spring, 43 new inventions which address medical and technological challenges presented by the pandemic have been submitted for patents and copyrights by USF faculty inventors.

“USF’s strong culture of innovation has once again placed it in the upper echelon of American institutions that are working tirelessly to create positive and lasting impact on the quality of life and addressing global challenges as they unfold,” said Dr. Paul Sanberg, USF’s Senior Vice President for Research, Innovation & Knowledge Enterprise.

In generating the rankings, the authors of the report created a formula that took into account data from the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) for the years 2013 to 2017, plus data on patent citations, academic paper citations, graduate numbers and other university attributes from publicly available websites.

The institutions’ innovation impact productivity scores were based on nine variables measuring the success of universities in:

  • Technology commercialization;
  • Entrepreneurship based on intellectual property and technologies licensed from the universities;
  • Research impact on other researchers and inventors; and
  • Production of STEM graduates, at the PhD, master’s and bachelor’s degree levels.

The study then examined the institutions’ metrics in generating innovation outputs from research inputs, measured by research spending, to produce a productivity score.

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The report also produced insights and policy recommendations on the need to further invest in research and innovation on a national, state and even local scale. The report suggests five “takeaways” for policy makers, business leaders, philanthropists, and communities:

  • Increase public-sector support for university research;
  • Understand how institutions vary in their innovation impact productivity;
  • Compete hard for talent, including immigrant talent;
  • Invest in integrated physical spaces connecting researchers with entrepreneurs, investors, and other potential nonacademic partners; and  
  • Support technology transfer operations and other enablers of innovation impact.

“Our aim in publishing rankings is to highlight high-performing institutions particularly standout performers in innovation impact productivity so that other institutions, as well as policymakers and other leaders, can learn from their example,” the report said.

The George W. Bush Institute is housed within the George W. Bush Presidential Center, and is an “action-oriented, nonpartisan, policy organization with the mission of developing leaders, advancing policy, and taking action to solve today’s most pressing challenges.” Opus Faveo Innovation Development is an innovation strategy and venture development firm that provides actionable solutions to leadership in academia, government and the private sector.

Read the full report (PDF)

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