Carnegie Mellon Ranked As Top Tech Transfer University In New Report

Carnegie Mellon University has been ranked as the top university in the United States for technology transfer by a new report from Heartland Forward, a nonprofit ” think and do tank” headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas, that focuses on economic renewal and improving economic performance in 20 states located in the middle of the country.

The University of Florida took second, making it the highest ranked public university. Columbia University placed third. Rounding out the top five were Stanford and Harvard.

The report, entitled Research to Renewal: Advancing University Tech Transfer, was released in May of this year. It ranks universities on their success in “creating new knowledge; embedding it in their science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates; and transferring both to new and existing enterprises.”

The rankings are based on an index that combines 14 metrics for the time period of 2017-2019, an array the report claims as “among the most comprehensive ever compiled.” The measures are divided into two categories: “formal technology transfer” and “informal technology transfer.”

The former is comprised of eight measures: invention disclosures, the number of licenses and options, licensing income and startups formed. Each of those metrics is presented two ways – a raw number as well as a “normalized” value that adjusts for a relevant parameter like overall research expenditures to measure efficiency in converting institutional inputs into technology outputs.

The six less formalized metrics include raw and normalized measures of citations of university articles contained in patents granted to firms, the number of STEM bachelor’s degrees and the the number of STEM master’s degrees awarded by the institution.

In addition to the overall ranking, schools are ranked on each of the component measures as well. Here are the top 20 universities (nine public, eleven private) based on the total index.

  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • University of Florida
  • Columbia University
  • Stanford University
  • Harvard University
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • North Carolina State University
  • University of California, San Diego
  • University of California, Los Angeles
  • University of Minnesota
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Purdue University, tied for 11th
  • Northwestern University
  • Cornell University
  • Duke University
  • University of Michigan
  • New York University
  • University of Washington
  • California Institute of Technology
  • University of Texas, Austin

For each of the top 20 schools, its ranking is also accompanied by a brief comment on key elements to its success.

For example, Carnegie Mellon is described this way: “The relatively small private school has a combination of top-tier computer science and engineering departments, as well as interdisciplinary research programs with a unique entrepreneurial culture and focus. Carnegie Mellon led an economic renaissance in Pittsburgh after steel production and other heavy manufacturing fell on hard times.”

The University of Florida is cited as a “top public university. It has a huge student body (enrollment upwards of 53,000 in 2020) and research enterprise. Its technology transfer prowess was seeded in the 1960s with its creation of Gatorade.”

According to the report, “North Carolina State… demonstrates a public university that believes commercialization is central to its mission can be a top performer. Since joining N.C. State in 2010, Chancellor Randy Woodson has elevated its position by improving STEM programs and elevating support of entrepreneurship and tech transfer… Today, North Carolina State anchors the Research Triangle.”

Along with the rankings, the report calls for the future development of measures that tap longer-term impacts of technology transfer and talent creation such as job creation and market capitalization of university spinoffs. And it offers several policy recommendations at both national and state levels that would enable universities to increase their economic impact through their technology transfer efforts.

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