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University of Washington’s CoMotion played a big role in the school’s ability to commercialize ideas.

Coming up with a great idea for a new technology or startup is one thing. But turning that idea into a commercially viable product or company is a whole different ballgame.

It turns out the University of Washington is pretty good at the latter. According to a new report from the Milken Institute, UW is ranked seventh among U.S. universities in commercializing ideas that come from students, staff and researchers and turning them into patents, licenses and startups.

The study was first conducted in 2006, and that year UW ranked 24th. Milken attributed UW’s rise partially to putting CoMotion, the university’s collaborative innovation hub, in charge of commercialization efforts.

UW is a leading recipient of federal research grants, at more than $1 billion per year. UW’s School of Medicine brings in about half of that money, and the study found that 27 percent of startups at CoMotion were in either biotech or healthcare. Information technology and software firms were made up about 26 percent of startups.

CoMotion, which includes dry and wet labs and incubation offices for startups, has sought to integrate UW with the Seattle area’s tech giants. The Global Innovation Exchange, a Microsoft-supported partnership between Tsinghua University and UW, will offer graduate technology degrees for U.S. and Chinese students. The Amazon Catalyst program will award grants of up to $100,000 to UW innovators who address large, real-world problems.

To generate the rankings for the Milken report, the authors used data from an Association of University Technology Managers survey to evaluate more than 200 U.S. research institutions on four key indicators: patents issued, licenses issued, licensing income, and startups formed.

“With this ranking, we see the importance of supporting and strengthening the UW innovation ecosystem to empower our students, our faculty and our region,” said Vikram Jandhyala, the executive director of CoMotion and vice president for innovation strategy at UW. “While we focus on the goals of social impact and economic development, our strategy of adapting to macro effects caused by technology disruption, globalization, and climate change will inform how we provide the best value for our community and society.”

Paul Allen speaks at the UW at the 50th anniversary of the computer science program. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

UW is working to spur innovation in other ways, mostly through the expansion of its computer science program. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen last month announced plans to make a $40 million gift to the University of Washington’s computer science and engineering program.

Allen’s gift, combined with an additional $10 million from Microsoft in Allen’s honor, will create a $50 million endowment for a new Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering at UW. The elevation from a department to a full school is an important distinction and recognizes the success and stature of the UW’s growing computer science program.

UW is expanding its computer science in a physical way as well. Construction is underway on the new $110 million structure, and it is set to open in 2018. UW has raised about $90 million from a series of high profile donors, including Microsoft, Amazon, ZillowGoogle and Charles and Lisa Simonyi.

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