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  • Writer's pictureAlec Sorensen

University R&D Trends: Finding 2023's Next Big Commercialization Opportunity

Last week, technology transfer leads from hundreds of universities gathered in Austin for the annual meeting of the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM). While you might think a gathering of the top global research institutions would attract a litany of companies looking for new technologies, the event draws only a meager group of industry innovation and tech scouting leads. This highlights a critical challenge facing innovators. Although universities account for over 70% of US basic research, technology transfer from universities to industry is limited. That's why this week, instead of focusing on a single technology area, we're looking at the entire university IP landscape. Given their focus on early-stage research, university patenting trends can provide unique insights into how technology landscapes will move over the next decade.

Have a technology angle for is or just want to talk about commercialization? Let us know at


10 Biggest University Bets of 2022

Cleantech accounts for significant growth in IP generation. In particular, biosynthetic materials and rare earth element extraction grew the most since last year; however, universities still filed 3x more patents for carbon capture than for REE extraction and biosynthesis combined.

Advanced Computing, specifically neural networks, quantum computing, and image processing also grew by over 30% from 2021.

The Losers: Wireless networking (network protocols, near-field communications, waveguides) and energy storage (EV batteries, smart grids, capacitors, electrolytes) saw reduced levels of IP generation.

Yes, But: Lower levels of research institution IP generation may occur as technologies mature and transition into applied research or commercialization.


New Leaders Emerge Outside of Traditional Tech Hubs

Tradespace identified 10+ universities that grew their IP filings by over 50% last year. Of these, five "Juggernauts" filed more than 150 patents over the last 12 months.

Non-Traditional Players Emerge: The majority of growth occurred outside of Boston and Silicon Valley.

Why you should care: High growth in IP generation at schools like Nebraska, Cincinnati, and ASU have the potential to stimulate economic growth in regions that have traditionally lagged the coasts in innovation. Whether universities realize this vision will depend on their ability to facilitate the development of regional ecosystems that can support IP commercialization. If this doesn't happen, IP will be commercialized outside the region or worse, not make it into the market at all.


2022's Top (Research) Influencers

Genetic engineering is still clearly a key focus area for universities. While new IP generation in CRISPR and reconmbinant DNA remained relatively flat, top researchers working in genetic engineering were heavily cited - particularly by corporate patents. Typically, denser citation networks and cross-polination of university and corporate inventors on patents signals that a tcehnology is moving towards widespread commercialization.

Outside of biotech, semiconductor and nanotech researchers were highly cited.

  • University of New Mexico Group Drives Innovation in Nanoscale Lithography: Steve Brueck's research explores the extension of optical lithography/ microscopy to the high-resolutions necessary for future generations of ICs.

  • Michigan State Leads in Thermochemcial Reactions: James Klausner's group works on thermochemical energy storage, energy efficient manufacturing, and thermal management for energy efficient processes


Finding University IP Commercialization Opportunities

Tradespace partners with universities to power more efficient IP commercialization, and tracks thousands of available IP opportunities. Interested in building out a pipeline of university partnership opportunities? Check out our IP Marketplace and reach out directly at


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