ASU makes top 10 in U.S. patent rankings for 3rd straight year

For the third consecutive year, ASU is in the top 10 for U.S. patents issued to U.S. universities — and 11th worldwide — according to an annual ranking of the top universities by the National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association

“These patents represent the hard work of ASU's elite research faculty, their dedication to tackle and solve society's biggest problems and the success they are having in that mission,” said Sally C. Morton, executive vice president of ASU's Knowledge Enterprise. “ASU is committed — at its core — to changing the world for the better. This acknowledgement demonstrates how we continue to drive forth those efforts.”

In 2020, ASU was issued 140 U.S. patents, up from 137 the previous year, a total that ties with the University of Florida and puts ASU just one spot behind Harvard. Other U.S. universities in the top 10 include MIT, Stanford and Caltech. Tsinghua University in Beijing was the only non-U.S. university to surpass ASU on the global list.

The commercialization of innovations created by ASU researchers is led by the team at Skysong Innovations, ASU’s exclusive technology transfer and intellectual property management organization. The team of business, technology and legal experts at Skysong Innovations collaborates with ASU faculty, postdocs and staff to protect and market the intellectual property they create. 

“ASU is absolutely unique in its commitment to promoting scholarship and research aimed directly at the real challenges society must overcome,” said Augie Cheng, CEO of Skysong Innovations. “We have a model that allows entrepreneurial faculty to pursue a broad range of potential applications, and that prioritizes long-term impact.”

In addition to patents, ASU researchers working with Skysong Innovations continued to set other new benchmarks in fiscal year 2020, submitting 306 invention disclosures and launching 19 new startups. ASU startups also raised more than $120 million in external funding in fiscal year 2020. Nationally, Skysong Innovations and ASU startups supported more than 2,000 jobs and contributed $222 million to the economy, with the bulk of that impact in Arizona. 

Below are two examples of ASU patented technologies highlighted in the 2020 report.

Detecting neurological disorders — as early as possible

Aural Analytics, a venture-backed ASU spinout company, has built applications that use speech to detect subtle changes in brain health. The company was co-founded by Julie Liss, associate dean and professor in the College of Health Solutions, and Visar Berisha, an associate professor with a joint appointment in the College of Health Solutions and the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering.

Many neurological disorders lead to changes in speech patterns. Analyzing those symptoms can allow clinicians to better locate where the disturbance is occuring in the nervous system. However, these changes are often too subtle to be detected without advanced algorithms.

In October 2020, Skysong Innovations secured for ASU a patent exclusively licensed to Aural Analytics that covers the use of a patient’s speech to diagnose and track neurological conditions including Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), traumatic brain injury (TBI), stroke and other conditions where motor speech changes may occur.

Aural Analytics has a dozen employees in Arizona and has raised more than $4 million in seed funding.

Pulling water from air in times and locations of drought

Cody Friesen is a serial entrepreneur, ASU alumnus and Fulton Engineering Professor of Innovation. His ASU spinout, SOURCE Global, has developed and manufactures Hydropanels that create drinking water from sunlight and air. 

In November 2020, Friesen and collaborators were named inventors on an ASU patent exclusively licensed to SOURCE for a method of efficiently extracting water vapor from atmospheric air. It was a busy 2020 for the company, which raised $50 million in its latest investment round while also being named to Fast Company’s list of most innovative social-good companies. 

Headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, the company operates in 48 countries and on six continents.

The Top 100 Worldwide Universities Granted U.S. Utility Patents in 2020 report uses data from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to find patents that list universities as the first assignee. At a time of intense public discussion of intellectual property protections, the report is intended to showcase the importance of patents in university research and innovation.  

“The institutions included in this year’s report are leading innovation worldwide through their encouragement of academic discovery and invention,” Paul R. Sanberg, president of the National Academy of Inventors, said in announcing the new report.

Written by Derek Sarley/Skysong