New Study Ranks Pitt among Top 20 U.S. Universities for Innovation Impact

July 2, 2020

Pitt ranks #18 among 195 U.S. universities for creating impact through innovation according to a new report issued by the George W. Bush Institute, a nonpartisan policy center housed within the George W. Bush Presidential Library.

“Our aim in publishing rankings is to highlight high-performing institutions — particularly stand-out performers in innovation impact productivity — so that other institutions, as well as policy makers and other leaders, can learn from their example,” the report’s summary states.

Building a robust innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem has been a strategic focus under the Plan for Pitt implemented in 2015, and has resulted in significant increases in the numbers of patents issued and licenses of Pitt-developed technologies over the past five years.

“Pitt innovators, today more than ever, are excited to see their research translate into products and services that improve lives and make a positive economic impact,” said Vice Chancellor for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Evan Facher, who also serves as director of the university’s Innovation Institute.

“With strong support from the University’s leadership, local foundations and the region’s economic development community, we are able to provide Pitt innovators with the education, mentoring and funding and other support they need to take their research that final step from the lab to the market,” he added.

The report argues that America’s long-term economic growth, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, “demands a stepped-up commitment to promoting the innovation impact of the nation’s top-tier universities and other research institutions.”

The report makes several policy recommendations for university leaders:

  1. Prioritize research
  2. Compete hard to attract and retain star faculty researchers
  3. Run an efficient, outcomes-focused technology transfer operation
  4. Instill a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship throughout the university
  5. Engage closely with the surrounding business and innovation community
  6. Avoid overreliance on sponsored research funding from industry
  7. Monitor, quantify, and transparently disclose innovation impact results

Facher said that across those recommendations, Pitt has made significant strides since the launch of the Innovation Institute in late 2013.

He pointed to the rapid response by Pitt innovators and the university’s innovation ecosystem to the pandemic. Not only did the university produce three different vaccine programs, but also a pilot grant program for COVID-related technologies that resulted in 157 proposals involving nearly 600 faculty and nearly 90 external collaborators.

“When it comes to tackling the problems of our time, Pitt innovators are demonstrating their creative and collaborative approach to making an impact,” Facher said.