Cover Story: How Big 3 Triangle colleges are fueling startups
The Triangle is often heralded for its ready workforce and research universities readily pumping out talented students. But these universities are not just spitting out graduates and potential employees – they are increasingly spinning out companies and patents. And that’s making their founders — and their schools — millions of dollars.
In the last fiscal year alone, the Triangle’s three largest universities spawned more than three dozen new companies. That number is increasing each year due to a strong economy, plentiful research dollars and an army of researchers in the region.
The results are the culmination of a concerted and purposeful effort by Triangle universities in recent years, as entire offices have been created to maximize research dollars.
But while many of the efforts to maximize research funding and commercialization efforts were brought on by the last recession, even during this golden age of growth university leaders say they are concerned about the reliability of federal dollars and changing political priorities.
And that’s important to universities looking to attract world-class talent incentivized by both research and market opportunities, as well as providing the foundation for a booming startup industry in an area looking to attract more venture fund attention.
But with these systems in place, university officials say they expect the commercialization numbers to continue growing, so long as the funding remains stable.
Duke University, for example, has seen an explosion in commercialization activity in the last five years. During the period, licensing revenue to the schools and researchers more than doubled from $25 million to $51 million per year. Patent count saw similar growth – up from 53 in 2014 to 107 last year.
As for spin-out companies, the university reports 16 in the 2018 fiscal year, more than triple the five companies formed in 2014.
He says increasing tools and ease of commercialization – coupled with a strong investor economy and a changing faculty standard of success – has created a strong local ecosystem.
“It’s a function of the new blood in the faculty,” he says. “For the old guard, it was enough to be published and recognized for your academic accomplishments. The younger generation of professors today are far more interested in seeing their work realized not just in the market but in companies they have a hand in.”
[Originally posted by Triangle Business Journal — June 14, 2019]