UF's start-up companies fill state coffers


Published: Saturday, January 22, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 21, 2005 at 11:37 p.m.
Successful companies that were hatched at the University of Florida do more than give UF a good name.
They contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to the state's economy, directly and indirectly.
According to a recent study at UF analyzing several dozen start-up companies that came out of the Office of Technology Licensing, the direct impact - sales, jobs and income - of the companies came to $186.2 million. Indirect and induced impact - increased economic activity directly associated with the companies and spending by the 921 employees involved - totaled $270 million. The final tally: a $456.2 million economic boost to the state, and much of that money coming from elsewhere, even overseas.
The study was commissioned by the UF Economic Development Administration University Center. Rhonda Phillips, project manager and associate professor of Urban and Regional Planning, said the results will be used "to try to build support for these kinds of activities, to do more technology transfer. We are committed to promoting UF as a great economic developer. There is an explicit effort to try to transfer UF technology to the market place.
"A lot of universities sell their technology outright, and then it leaves the area. UF wants to capture the benefit and keep it in this region, and the state. There is a direct concerted effort to help start-ups spin-off in this area, to keep them here."
David Day, director of the Office of Technology Licensing, said that up to five years ago UF technologies were licensed primarily to major corporations.
"But many major corporations have chosen to let smaller start-ups lay the groundwork for new technologies, with an eye toward acquiring the most successful of those companies," Day said. So beginning in 2001, the university also concentrated on licensing its emerging technologies to start-up companies that could nurture the science, he said. Since then the number of new licenses has grown dramatically, from eight in 1999 to 64 in 2003, with more than 20 percent of them being to new or existing UF start-ups.
Phillips, also director of the Center for Building Better Communities in UF's College of Design, Construction and Planning, said the Center is a research initiative to balance economic development.
Phillips fed the usable data from 34 companies - "which were dispersed nicely through Florida, from the Panhandle to South Florida, Jacksonville and the West Coast" - into an economic impact modeling software called Implan to calculate the direct, indirect and induced impact.
The results were positive. "For every dollar of revenue generated, another $1.44 is generated in the Florida economy," she said. "And for every job created by these companies, another 1.08 jobs is created in the Florida economy."
Since UF serves the entire state, there was no breakdown of separate regions, such as Alachua County, even though a good number of the companies are operating here, she said.
Phillips described the way "induced" and "indirect" impacts are calculated is similar to waves coming in from the ocean. The first cresting is the initial revenue. But the wave then crests again, but a little smaller, that would be indirect; and the third time, that's induced impact. "The money circulates through the economy several times, with second and third rounds of spending."
The fact that most of the start-ups coming out of UF are technology-based is an exciting prospect for the state, and particularly Alachua County.
Among the companies included in the survey were Applied Genetic Technologies Corp., a start-up based at the university's Sid Martin Biotechnology Development Incubator that is developing gene therapy treatments using a technology developed at UF. Last month, the Food and Drug Administration cleared the way for Oragenics, another UF start-up, to begin human clinical trials on a gene-related treatment for tooth decay. Oragenics recently outgrew the local biotech incubator with 19 employees and moved into its own building nearby.
Both of these companies have received assistance from the UF EDA University Center, which is housed in the Office of Technology Licensing.
The EDA University Center was created as a partnership between UF and the Economic Development Administration to be a catalyst for new companies. It helps bring research to the marketplace, create jobs and generate private investments.
/ Marina Blomberg can be reached at 374-5025 or blombem@gvillesun.com.

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