USF's innovation programs pump $582M into the economy

The University of South Florida’s innovation ecosystem pumps more than half a billion dollars annually into the state’s economy, with the bulk of that staying in the Tampa Bay Area, a new report says.

Miami-based consulting firm the Washington Economics Group finds that USF’s innovation enterprise, which includes the Technology Transfer Office, Tampa Bay Technology Incubator, the Office of Corporate Partnerships, and startups, early-stage companies, researchers and community partners in the USF Research Park, pumped $582 million annually into the Florida economy in 2018, with $548 million of that staying in Tampa Bay. That is a significant 45 percent increase from the firm’s initial analysis three years ago.

The findings further bolster USF’s growing national reputation as a major research university. USF, through its Technology Transfer Office, ranks among the top-10 public research universities in the country, and 16th worldwide, in securing patents for new technology, according to the National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association. The state university system’s Board of Governors has also designated USF as a preeminent research university, bringing in more money for enhanced research, top-notch faculty and additional student success programs.

The University of South Florida also is now ranked No. 44 on the newly released U.S. News and World Report list of best public universities in America -- USF’s highest position ever. Since 2015, USF has climbed 44 spots to No. 44 from No. 88, an unparalleled trajectory among public or private universities in the United States.

Paul Sanberg, USF Senior VP for Research, Innovation and Knowledge Enterprise, says turning innovation efforts into an economic driver for the region is a piece of that preeminent status.

“It’s part of our mission,” Sanberg says. “One of the legs of the stool of being a preeminent research university should be helping the economy and having a significant impact in Tampa Bay and the state of Florida.”

The findings, he says, should show prospective faculty and students that USF has an environment with the resources and facilities to help them grow their research into a business.

The Washington Economics Group report says USF’s innovation efforts directly employ nearly 2,000 people in the Tampa Bay area and support another 2,068 at organizations and businesses that provide goods and services to innovation operations. Statewide, 82 percent of the jobs created through USF innovation programs are in knowledge-based services, an area that includes life sciences companies, IT operations, financial services and professional and administrative services.

Since the USF incubator has lab space, Sanberg says life sciences is a particularly strong filed for producing companies. Software development, cyber security and engineering are also strengths, he adds.

The report says that more than 800 companies have worked with USF Research & Innovation over the past five years. Firms such as Intezyne, Inc., which was formerly based in Massachusetts, have relocated to the USF Research Park, bringing high-wage jobs and opportunities to collaborate on research. Iovance Biotherapeutics is another success story the Washington Economics Group highlights. A publicly-traded company, Iovance is set to expand its research and product development facility in the USF Research Park for the third time in five years.

Sanberg says with the buildings used for USF’s innovation operations full and the incubator at capacity, it is time for USF to expand its own facilities to meet the growing demand its success has produced.

For more information on the report and USF innovation programs follow these links: The Economic Impacts of USF’s Innovation EnterpriseUSF patents, USF Research & Innovation, USF Enters Top 50 in U.S. News Rankings for the First Time.

Read more articles by Christopher Curry.

Chris Curry is a freelance writer living in Clearwater. Chris spent more than 15 years as a newspaper reporter, primarily in Ocala and Gainesville, before moving back home to the Tampa Bay Area. He enjoys our local music scene, great weather and the wealth of outdoor festivals.
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