The influence of UNC Charlotte’s growing research enterprise is solidified in a new report that evaluated the universities in the United States most proficient at creating new knowledge; instilling it into their science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates; and transferring it to new and existing enterprises.
Among the 16 members of the UNC System for patenting, licensing and startup activity, UNC Charlotte ranks third for transferring technology to the marketplace, according to “Research to Renewal: Advancing University Tech Transfer,” published by Heartland Forward, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to improving economic performance in the central United States. Only N.C. State and UNC Chapel Hill ranked higher.
The study covers invention disclosures, issued licenses and options, gross licensing income, formed startups, cited patents and graduates in STEM fields. Of the 166 public and private universities evaluated nationally, UNC Charlotte received an overall rank of 72. The report includes standardized statistics based on levels of research expenditures. Compared with its peers with similar research programs, Charlotte ranks third. Applying considerations for scale, Charlotte ranks eighth overall for startups and 15th for invention disclosures.
“UNC Charlotte’s Office of Research Commercialization and Development is one of the country’s best in putting inventions and new discoveries to work,” said Rick Tankersley, vice chancellor for research and economic development. “Our commitment to economic development drives a long-standing tradition of transferring novel ideas and technologies to the private sector, which translates to the formation of new companies, the creation of jobs and overall impact on the economy.”
Since 2017, UNC Charlotte faculty and student inventors have been awarded 98 new patents — No. 42 per the Heartland Forward report — and launched 17 startups. In 2021, annual research funding reached an all-time high of $58 million.
In regard to undergraduate and graduate STEM degrees, the University ranks No. 81 and No. 29, respectively. With 38% of current undergraduates enrolled in STEM majors and a recent $41.2 million investment from the North Carolina General Assembly initiative, “Engineering North Carolina’s Future,” which will bring an anticipated 2,000 additional engineering students to Charlotte, the number of STEM degrees awarded is expected to rise accordingly over the coming years.
The overall rankings of UNC System institutions cited in the Heartland Forward report include N.C. State (No. 7), UNC Chapel Hill (No. 51), UNC Charlotte (No. 72), East Carolina University (No. 104), UNC Wilmington (No. 122) and North Carolina A&T (No. 160).