UC research in 2014 leads to 1,796 inventions, 86 startups

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Sierra Brown/Staff

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The University of California released Thursday a technology report on innovation and funding throughout the UC system.

According to the 2014 Technology Commercialization Report, there were 496 patents issued, 1,796 inventions disclosed by UC researchers and 86 startups founded in 2014. Companies created to commercialize UC technologies generated $14 billion in revenue in 2014 and employed approximately 19,000 people, according to a UC Office of the President press release.

Since 1980, UC startups have received $11 billion in total venture funding — mostly from private enterprises and philanthropic investors — and $390 million in total Small Business Innovation Research federal grants.

Several of the top-earning UC inventions of 2014 included pharmaceutical drugs, agricultural products, and medical treatments and devices.

The university earned a total of $118 million in patent royalties and fee incomes in 2014 from enterprises that used UC inventions.

According to Dorothy Miller, the director of systemwide programs and initiatives for the university’s Innovation Alliances & Services, much of the funding from royalty fees goes back to fund campus operations or returns to the creators of individual inventions.

UC Berkeley alumna Kelly Gardner, CEO and co-founder of Zephyrus Biosciences, used incubators — companies that help new companies by offering services — connected to the UC system to develop the research she did into a business, as a member of the campus Herr Lab.

Gardner said that one of the most beneficial parts of being in an accelerator — a platform that helps new businesses grow — is the access to other companies. Speaking to other companies further along in their development helped Gardner set up funding and learn how to handle the business aspects of a startup company.

“Research can serve the public mission of the UC, and it also can generally help the world,” said Gardner, who believes that incubators help commercialize important research that otherwise might not reach the market.

Jingyi Li, a campus junior studying electrical engineering and computer sciences, said that many people in technology feel excluded from the social circle.

Li said the production teams of startups are usually less diverse than the intended audience. She also described the startup culture as “capitalist” because startups often focus on new production at the expense of user experience or ecological sustainability.

UC Berkeley bioengineering professor and Zephyrus Biosciences co-founder Amy Herr said that while the UC campuses are doing a good job encouraging students to start their own companies, entrepreneurship is not the only part of innovation. She said the university should keep supporting students interested in working at nongovernmental organizations or creating policy.

Peter Minor, co-founder of the CITRIS Foundry, an incubator at UC Berkeley that helps startups, said potential entrepreneurs at UC Berkeley who don’t come from departments such as business and engineering often don’t realize that they can access campus startup resources.

“Berkeley has a culture of being separate and siloed in independence,” Minor said. “Each of (the services for startups) were created to serve our own local community, and what is lacking now is some structure that brings us all together.”

On Tuesday, UCOP announced its first primeUC competition, in which startups in the areas of therapeutics, consumer health, medical devices and diagnostics will compete for a total of $300,000 in seed funding. The four winners of the competition will be announced in December.

Contact Mira Chaplin at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @mirachaplin.

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