Trace almost any important new technology back to its roots and you’re more than likely to find a university research lab. But even the most stunning academic innovation-a breakthrough anticancer compound or a completely novel type of computer chip-will have little impact on our world and our lives unless it makes its way out of the lab and into the marketplace. That journey often begins with the launch of a brand new company, so the editors of Technology Review set out to find seven of the most intriguing such startups. You’ll meet them when you turn the page.
The selection of these seven startups is the culmination of a months-long search. We sought out the most original and promising companies formed in the last few years to commercialize inventions from university labs around the world. We consulted with university technology managers, prominent researchers, venture capitalists and key industry observers to choose fledgling firms-in areas ranging from computer chips to drug discovery-that we believe not only have something new and important to contribute but that also stand a good chance of making it in the business world. There are, of course, no guarantees of success, but of the hundreds of companies we considered, these stand as the stars.
Still, not every new university technology heads to market under the steam of its own startup. Indeed, most universities take the more traditional route of licensing their new technologies to outside corporations. That’s why we haven’t stopped at startups. In the TR University Research Scorecard, we reveal which U.S. universities are doing the best job of patenting and licensing the fruits of their research labs, using data from CHI Research in Haddon Heights, NJ, and from the Association of University Technology Managers in Northbrook, IL. The accompanying analysis of the scorecard highlights the important trends behind those numbers.
Taken together, these stories will give you a snapshot of university innovation today-and a sneak preview of technology tomorrow.