The University of Nebraska system ranked among the top 100 academic institutions worldwide in earning U.S. patents during 2017, says a new report from the National Academy of Inventors and Intellectual Property Owners Association.
The NU system earned the 70th-most U.S. patents to legally protect research discoveries and technological advances, according to the report. Those patents are awarded through the system’s technology transfer offices, which include NUtech Ventures at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and UNeMed Corp. at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and University of Nebraska at Omaha.
The new report echoes another, released in 2017 by the Milken Institute, that rated the NU system in the top 16 percent of U.S. institutions on a metric that accounted for patents and licenses received, licensing income earned and the number of startup companies formed.
NUtech Ventures works with Husker faculty to identify opportunities for protecting, marketing and licensing intellectual property. The NU system earned 37 patents in 2017, with Husker researchers named as inventors on 27 of them.
Patents represent an early but essential stage in realizing the vast applications of university research, said Brad Roth, executive director of NUtech Ventures. After securing a patent, the university licenses intellectual property to companies, including faculty startups, for additional research and development.
“We look forward to these newly patented technologies impacting society over the next several decades as they are commercialized,” Roth said. “Together with UNeMed, our offices are committed to protecting the University of Nebraska’s intellectual property as a critical step in moving innovations from the lab to the marketplace.”
In 2017, Husker engineers Chris Tuan and Lim Nguyen earned patent protection for a concrete mixture that shields against electromagnetic pulses, which can cripple power grids and fry electronic devices. The mixture also guards against other forms of electromagnetic interference, including those used in corporate espionage. Tuan and Nguyen have licensed the technology to a corporate developer of disaster-resistant structures.
The University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Shane Farritor and UNMC colleagues have likewise patented several recent innovations that will expand and refine the capabilities of their remote-controlled surgical robot. The two-pound robot, which can enter a patient’s abdomen to treat maladies that include Crohn’s disease and colon cancer, is designed to speed recovery and reduce the costs of abdominal procedures.
Farritor and UNMC’s Dmitry Oleynikov have commercialized their signature device through a spinoff company, Virtual Incision Corp., that resides on Lincoln’s Nebraska Innovation Campus.
Other Husker researchers patented a drone system that collects water samples to evaluate freshwater quality and various sensors for detecting subtle changes in light, temperature and the concentrations of biological agents. Methods for growing solar cell crystals on commercially relevant scales and a technique for more efficiently converting organic waste into usable heat or power also received patent protection in 2017.
“To be named in the company of some of the world’s leading research universities is one more sign that the University of Nebraska is on a remarkable trajectory in growing our state for the future,” said Hank Bounds, NU president. “The good work of our technology transfer offices is helping our talented faculty and students generate broad impact from their innovations — a benefit not just to our economy, but to the people whose lives are ultimately transformed by research born at the University of Nebraska.”