University of Florida Ranked Among Leading Innovative Universities

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The University of Florida has ranked among the top universities that inspire innovative ideas, license start-ups, and perform ground-breaking research in different fields. According to a report released last week by the George W. Bush Institute and the Opus Faveo Innovation Development consulting firm, UF ranked high in terms of the most productive large university in the country at leveraging its research funding into new companies, new jobs, and new ideas. Coming in at number 6 behind only the University of California and Texas university systems, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the universities of Washington and Michigan, UF ranked in the top spot for innovation impact, purely on volume, using data from the Association of University Technology Managers.

UF generated an average of 123 issued patents and 15 startups per year between 2013 and 2017, according to the report. This distinguished the university, placing it among the top-performing U.S. universities on those metrics. Academic patenting is essential when it comes to research and licensing because of the need to protect intellectual property. This is a formal way for a government authority to confer a right or title for a set period. This helps educational institutions avoid someone else using, selling or outright owning the rights to their own work.

“For our size, we move more technologies to the point of impact than anyone else, period,” said Jim O’Connell, assistant vice president for commercialization at UF and director of UF Innovate.  “In the simplest sense, that is the ultimate job of all tech transfer organizations, and UF does it really, really well.” 

UF was a strong performer in license income, earning an average of $36 million per year, equal to 6.4% of research dollars. 

Sign of the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, USA with a small bird standing on the top on May 2, 2020. Taken at Reitz Union North Lawn. Photo and Caption: Kyle S Lo/

UF has also started more than 60 projects. They have managed to create an entire original environment that includes the transfer of technology and data, business incubators, a venture fund, and corporate engagement, among other things. In the report itself, formerly titled, “The Innovation Impact of U.S. Universities,” indicates that America’s growth and development are a driving force for building competitiveness in research operations. The report also puts an emphasis on life science, biotechnology, and vital STEM fields.

The university has spun off more than 60 companies in biotech alone, and more than 20% of them have been acquired by major pharmaceutical, food, agricultural biotech and energy enterprises. “The report highlights – and rightly so – that UF operates one of the most respected technology transfer offices in the country with the best tech transfer team in the world,” said David Norton, UF’s vice president for research. “But none of this happens without a remarkable research enterprise that is aggressively addressing the significant opportunities and challenges that face our nation and planet.”

Additionally, UF ranked 4th overall in teaching impact. It produced one-third as many STEM Ph.D. graduates each year as the entire University of California system, despite having a research budget only about one-tenth as large.

The report concluded that university leaders should prioritize research. Clever and hard-working faculty researchers should be attracted and retained in the school’s programs while also running outcomes-focused tech transfer operations. The report also suggested the University would do well to instill a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in its students.

A winning recipe for success would be to engage with the surrounding business and innovation community as often as possible, also according to the report. 

The George W. Bush Institute is an action-oriented, non-partisan policy organization seeking to develop leaders, advance policy and take action to solve pressing challenges. Opus Faveo Innovation Development is an innovation strategy and venture development firm.