The University of Minnesota ranks 17th in the world—ninth among U.S. public universities—on a recent list of universities granted the most U.S. patents in 2019.
The “Top 100 Worldwide Universities Granted U.S. Utility Patents,” released by the National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association, draws on data from the US Patent and Trademark Office to highlight the vital role patents play in university research and innovation. UMN has ascended the rankings continuously for the past five years, climbing from 50th in 2014.
“The University of Minnesota’s ranking among other highly regarded peer institutions known for their research output is further testament to the talent of our researchers here and to the enormous potential of their discoveries,” said Rick Huebsch, executive director of UMN Technology Commercialization, the office that assesses an invention’s patentability, determines market potential, files for patents and negotiates licensing deals. “It is our mission to bring these discoveries into society and help ensure they benefit the public good.”
Patenting new technologies allows the University to protect the intellectual property behind the technology and license it to companies or organizations with the ability to then develop the technology into a product or service. The NAI and IPO ranking lists UMN as receiving 102 U.S. utility patents in 2019, up from 89 the previous year. In addition, the most recent UMN Technology Commercialization annual report notes that, for the fiscal year ending in June 2019, University researchers disclosed 391 new inventions and were granted a total of 187 US and foreign patents.
“University patents ignite a culture of growth and innovation, which in turn stimulates the economy,” said Jessica Landacre, executive director at the IPO, in a news release announcing the rankings. “The Top 100 Worldwide Universities Granted U.S. Utility Patents demonstrates which institutions excel in this arena.”
Technology commercialization offices have also played an important role during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, providing a bridge for COVID-19-related innovations to move beyond the lab and into society. The University of Minnesota is one of 82 universities and organizations to voluntarily sign onto the Association of University Technology Managers’ COVID-19 Licensing Guidelines, which outlines a humanitarian approach to rapidly bringing COVID-19-related technologies to market. The guidelines recommend licenses allow more than one company access to the same technology and forego royalty payments. In exchange, the licensee company or organization commits to rapidly producing and distributing its product or service.
As one example of these practices in action, UMN researchers from the Earl E. Bakken Medical Devices Center, College of Science and Engineering and Medical School collaborated with industry leaders, including Boston Scientific, Medtronic and UnitedHealth Group, to develop an emergency ventilator alternative. The device, called the Coventor, will help to fill a shortage of traditional ventilators crucial in the treatment of COVID-19. The Coventor has received U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorization and its design specifications are now freely available for manufacturers wishing to produce it.
The COVID-19 Innovations page contains a list of UMN technologies available for licensing and designed to prevent, diagnose, treat, or contain COVID-19.
- Science and Technology