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U of Utah Ranks First with MIT at Starting Companies

Feb. 16, 2010 – The University of Utah now is ranked first in the country along with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in creating new startup companies from research-based inventions.

This puts the University of Utah in front of prestigious institutions such as Columbia, Michigan and Johns Hopkins. The accomplishment is based on the latest survey by the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM), which ranks over 150 public and private research institutions throughout the country.

According to AUTM, the University of Utah started 20 new companies in fiscal year 2008 from technologies based on its varied research. For the previous two years, the University of Utah has ranked second to MIT.

“This is the University of Utah’s first year with a first-place ranking, which was a surprise,” said Jack Brittain, the university’s vice president for technology venture development. “It was a surprise because this ranking is based on 2008 data when the university’s operation was still growing and implementing new programs.”

The average number of startup companies created by U.S. universities is three.

The University of Florida and California Institute of Technology followed the University of Utah and MIT with 14 startup companies in FY 2008. The University of Utah’s accomplishment is even more significant because MIT received almost five times more research funding, $1.3 billion, compared with Utah’s approximately $273 million. On average, universities ranked by the annual AUTM survey receive approximately $288 million in research funding.

“Much of this success is the result of the support we provide new companies. Although the path to success can be long and challenging, we try to shorten the time frame to success by supporting these young companies,” said Brian Cummings, director of the University of Utah’s Technology Commercialization Office (TCO).

The TCO has been focused on economic development since 2005, when the Office of Technology Venture Development was created under Britain’s leadership. This was an innovative shift away from the traditional organizational structure that exists at most universities. It has allowed the TCO to function at a higher level by responding to the needs of university inventors and staff.

“The support from the state of Utah and the local business community is one reason why the University of Utah has been so successful in getting new companies started,” said Cummings. “The state has established an extremely friendly climate for entrepreneurs. The results are reflected by these national rankings.”

The annual AUTM survey tracks commercialization activities at all the major U.S. universities and is designed to present the outcomes from federally funded research.

“The entrepreneurial culture of this university and its faculty are the source of these results,” says Brittain. “It is the same entrepreneurial culture and innovative environment that allows faculty such as Mario Capecchi to win a Nobel Prize for his ground-breaking research. Our innovative faculty is always looking at the big picture impact of their research. This has been manifest by the results of the latest AUTM survey.”

The TCO at the University of Utah evaluates almost 200 new inventions every year, some of which are nurtured and become new companies. Since the inception of a specialized Office of Technology Venture Development, more than 83 new companies have started from the university. These new companies represent advances in energy, medical devices, personalized medicine, graphic design, software, nanotechnology, disease diagnostics and more.