UT falls low on startup company survey

Jennifer Berke

The Association of University Technology Managers surveyed a variety of institutions whose research led to the creation of new companies in the fiscal year of 2010. UT Austin did not score high on the survey.

The Association of University of Technology Managers administers an annual survey that captures the nation’s annual commercialization success, said Jack Brittain, vice president for Technology Venture Development at the University of Utah. The University of Utah has had the highest number of startup companies for the past two years. MIT ranked second with 17 startups, BYU had 13, Columbia and Cornell both had 12, Johns Hopkins and Purdue had 11 each and Carnegie Mellon and the University of Michigan had 10, according to the press release.

The University of Texas system, which includes a total of nine campuses, saw 33 startups in the 2010 fiscal year. However, the startups were ranked per campus, so UT Austin’s average was well below other universities.

“As a leading research university, UT research facilities are focused on creating good, successful companies, rather than focused on the number of research companies we can create,” said Juan Sanchez, vice president for research at UT said. “Don’t assume that just because Utah has created 18 startups in the last year that they are all great companies.”

The survey covers universities, research hospitals and independent research institutes, Brittain said.

“Over 300 institutions report annual results through this survey, including all the major U.S. and Canadian research universities,” Brittain said.

According to the Office of Technology Commercialization’s website, UT has seen the creation of 59 startups over the last eight years, and within the last fiscal year, UT Austin’s research has led to 12 research company startups, more than any other Texas university.

One similarity between the University of Utah and UT is that they both have separate programs to commercialize their research, Sanchez said. UT houses the Office of Technology of Commercialization, and the University of Utah has Tech Ventures, which includes their own Technology Communication Office, he said.

The University of Utah has seen many internal improvements to its system to become the university with the most research startup companies.

“Our major focus was on being an active participant in technology,” said Bryan Ritchie, executive director at the University of Utah. “We’ve added additional services such as finding appropriate teams to carry out these company endeavors, and getting enough funding to support the technology research.”

The University of Utah receives about $300 million a year federally, and about $50 million a year through sponsorship, Ritchie said. The university receives about a third of the funding of top universities such as MIT, Washington and Johns Hopkins. UT Austin gets about $650 million a year, Sanchez said.

“What’s great is that the University of Utah has created an entirely separate organization which is responsible for the commercialization of research,” said Zachary Miles, an associate director for the TCO at the University of Utah said. “Beginning around 2006, we focused more on the commercialization of research because there were some great ideas out there but nothing was being done with them.

Utah saw the creation of its first startup research company in 1970, and since then, 80 to 90 percent of research startups from the University of Utah are still active, Ritchie said.

“We can’t credit Utah’s success to one specific group or person,” Ritchie said. “Our president of the time, Michael Young, put a focus on commercialization and venture development, and with the culture of entrepreneurship and faculty members being awarded for commercialization, lots of moving parts came together to get us here.

Printed on Thursday, December 1, 2011 as: UT scores low on company startup survey