With offspring ranging from semiconductor maker Cree, Inc., and poultry vaccine producer Embrex, Inc., to a slew of two- to four-person start-ups, NC State has become a national leader in technology transfer and commercialization in the past two decades.

In fiscal 2003, for example, NC State reached all-time highs in the number of applications for patents (170) and patents granted (58). The figures are triple and double, respectively, the numbers just five years ago. During that five-year span, the University collected more than $21 million in royalties from technology licensed to outside companies--money that is shared with inventors and invested in new intellectual property.

Those activities led MIT Technology Review to rank the University 12th in its most recent national survey of technology transfer strength, which combines the number of patents issued for university research with a measure of how relevant the discoveries are to other scientists. This year's ranking is a long way from the No. 22 ranking the University held in 1997. "This also represents a strong stimulus for applied research with industry," Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Studies Dr. John Gilligan says.

In all, more than 50 companies have been spun out of NC State since 1980, now employing almost 1,800 people in fields like textiles, pharmaceuticals and environmental engineering. Those figures don't even include SAS Institute, the world's largest privately held software company, which emerged from NC State's Statistics Department before the current age of technology transfer was born.

Dr. Donna Cookmeyer, director of NC State's Office of Technology Transfer (OTT), says the "entrepreneurial portal" created by the University encourages faculty innovation and nurtures business start-ups. "All the infrastructure is here--the administrative support from the chancellor on down--to say that, if you want to commercialize your research, we'll help you do it," she says.

The portal includes OTT, which finds commercial outlets for faculty inventions; the College of Management's HiTEC program, which helps develop viable businesses around intellectual property; the Technology Incubator on Centennial Campus, which provides convenient offices and labs to fledgling companies; and the Academy Centennial Fund, which invests venture capital in promising start-ups.

This issue features the various aspects of NC State's superior tech transfer model and some success stories it has produced.