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Posted on Wed, Oct 17, 2012 : 5:57 a.m.

U-M Tech Transfer office reports record number of new inventions

By Ben Freed

University of Michigan's Office of Tech Transfer reported this week that 368 new inventions were reported in the fiscal year 2012, which ended in June, comfortably eclipsing last year’s then-record total of 332.


U-M Technology Transfer Office executive director Ken Nisbet (center), Michigan Venture Center director Jim O'Connell and Tech Transfer licensing director Robin Rasor stand outside the Venture Accelerator at the NCRC. file photo

The Tech Transfer office helps scientists take their inventions to market through a variety of programs and also handles the licensing agreements that allow technologies and inventions to spin off into for-profit companies while still benefiting the university.

"We’re proud of these results that reflect on the high caliber of our research and researchers and the work of our business and venture partners," executive director of Tech Transfer Ken Nisbet said in a statement. "These results, and our investments in capabilities, demonstrate our university’s commitment to the economic progress for our region and state.”

U-M’s income from those licensing agreements was about $13.4 million in FY 2012, down from nearly $16 million in FY11 and $39.8 million in FY10. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Michigan ranked 14th in the country in licensing revenue in FY10 and fell to 22nd in FY11. Information was unavailable as to why the revenue dropped off sharply after 2010.

While revenue from licenses has declined, spending on research grew by about $100 million between FY10 and FY11, the last year with available data.

Spinning inventions off into companies has been a point of emphasis for the university for the past decade, with 98 new startup companies using technologies that were first developed in an academic setting.

The Tech Transfer office was honored with the Research Deal of the Year award last year for opening the Venture Accelerator in the North Campus Research Complex. The accelerator houses companies such as Life Magnetics that are founded by U-M faculty.

This year, the Center for Entrepreneurship in the engineering school has been nominated for the same award for running the Innovation Corps program that pairs scientists and innovators with business mentors to help them bring their products to market as spinoff companies.

The university will honor some of its spinoff companies with its annual Celebrate Invention event Thursday from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Michigan League. The event is free, but guests must register ahead of time. The event will include eight kiosks featuring hands-on demonstrations of some of the new technologies and startups that have emerged in the past year.

Ben Freed covers business for Reach him at 734-623-2528 or email him at Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2


Ben Freed

Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 10:10 p.m.

Per Ken Nisbet, executive director of the Office of Tech Transfer, the large drop off in revenue from FY2010 to FY2011 was due to an agreement in 2010 when the university sold its royalty rights to a technology referred to as FluMist to a third party in a process known as royalty monetarization. The process is similar to receiving upfront money for an annuity payment and resulted in an unusually high revenue year for the university.


Wed, Oct 17, 2012 : 2:39 p.m.

So how many of those "368 new inventions" have been commercialized? UofM get ~$1.25B in research grants and only generates 10 - 12 new companies - not very impressive in my estimation. How does that compare with MIT or Stanford?

Ben Freed

Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 10:07 p.m.

About a third of those have been commercialized. The university entered into license agreements for 123 of those inventions and reaped $13.4 million in revenues from those and previous licenses during the fiscal year. Not every license agreement leads to a new company, many of the inventions are licensed to previously existing companies. I don't have the numbers for MIT and stanford offhand but I will try to find them for you.