Texas Universities Breed Innovation

The University of Texas, Texas A&M and the University of Houston are world-class institutions, not only educating students, but also conducting billions of dollars worth of research that helps spawn new businesses.

Gary Wollenhaupt
On Thursday, August 4, 2011 - 23:47
Texas universities are breeding grounds of innovation, delivering new processes, products and technologies to the marketplace across a range of industries, including electronics, medical, biotechnology, aerospace, advanced materials, and energy. Texas colleges and universities are among the main drivers of innovation in the state, which the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows generated more than 6,400 patents in 2009, ranking second nationally. The University of Texas educates more than 50,000 students. Within its 350-acre main campus in Austin, research at the Texas Advanced Computing Center is aided by one of the most powerful open science supercomputers and lasers in the world. The university also conducts research at the J.J. Pickle Campus, Brackenridge Field Laboratory, Marine Science Center and McDonald Observatory. In 2010, more than $644 million in research funding was awarded. More than 800 patents have been granted to the university. Last year, licensing agreements for use of  technologies developed at the university generated $14.3 million. The University of Texas has several units dedicated to building and developing entrepreneurship, including the IC2 Institute, the Austin Technology Incubator and Texas Venture Labs. Incubator director Isaac Barchas says more than 3,200 companies have transferred technologies gleaned from university research in computer, wireless communication, bioscience and life science technologies. Most of these companies remain in the area. "Texas has a very attractive business environment and Austin in particular is a very attractive place to live," Barchas says. The Texas A&M University System educates more than 120,000 students. Texas A&M University in College Station is listed among the National Science Foundation's Top 20 Academic Research Performers for its $631 million in research expenditures in fiscal year 2009. Texas A&M ranked third nationally in fiscal year 2009 for science and engineering research expenditures among universities without medical schools "Studies show that states which expand and enhance university research help drive industrial R&D and local innovation," says Jeffrey R. Seemann, the system's chief research officer. "Texas A&M University is one of the nation's emerging powerhouse research institutions." Texas A&M's Research Park has more than 550,000 square feet of space available to private companies and organizations interested in collaborating with the university to accelerate the transfer of new biomedical, engineering, information, and life sciences technologies into the marketplace. These companies can also work with researchers at Texas AgriLife Research, Texas Engineering Experiment Station, The Texas A&M Health Science Center, Texas Institute for Genomic Medicine and Texas A&M Institute for Preclinical Studies. In 2010 alone, research within system produced 207 inventions, 38 patents and 46 technology licenses. This year, the University of Houston joined UT and Texas A&M, becoming the third Carnegie-designated Tier One research university in the state and just one of 109 in the nation. UH faculty received more than $100 million in research grants last year. "The Carnegie recognition will bring greater visibility to Houston and lead to more economic development for the region and sustained research productivity," says Richard Bonnin, university spokesman. World-class research is conducted at UH's 40 research centers, laboratories and institutes. "These hubs produce a wealth of new information about anything from getting oil out of the ground more efficiently to encouraging the marketing and medical community to focus on issues affecting health-care delivery," Bonnin says. As a public institution, UH participates in the commercialization of its academic research inventions as one of the many ways to demonstrate the benefits of investments made in research through state budget allocations, and federal grants and awards.


Gary Wollenhaupt is a freelance writer covering economic development, travel, technology and green home building.