Opinion Pieces

Investing in our inventors

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Washington, April 14, 2016 | comments
Scientific discoveries and inventions in America’s college campus labs are accelerating modern technological progress at an astounding rate. Look at the advancements in 3-D printing, environmentally-friendly manufacturing, genomics and more. Universities and non-profit research institutions are the bedrock for our nation’s innovative work and progress. In 2014 alone, nearly 6,500 U.S. Utility Patents were granted to academic inventors around the world, according to a report by the National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association.
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Scientific discoveries and inventions in America’s college campus labs are accelerating modern technological progress at an astounding rate. Look at the advancements in 3-D printing, environmentally-friendly manufacturing, genomics and more. Universities and non-profit research institutions are the bedrock for our nation’s innovative work and progress. In 2014 alone, nearly 6,500 U.S. Utility Patents were granted to academic inventors around the world, according to a report by the National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association.
      
The National Academy of Inventors (NAI) was formed in 2010 to join the interests of these visionaries and foster collaboration. A mere six years later, 3,000 inventors from U.S and international universities and non-profit research institutes are members, including researchers who have developed compact lithium batteries and treatments for heart failure. The NAI has grown to include Nobel Laureates, Lemelson-MIT prize recipients, presidents and senior research leaders, plus other distinguished inventors.

There is nothing more exciting than visiting the labs of young researchers as they tackle the world’s most difficult challenges. In my hometown of Tampa, Fla., at the University of South Florida where NAI was founded, our vision is to pair breakthroughs with commercial markets and patents to advance innovation. The synergy and partnerships fostered by the Florida High-Tech Corridor have also played an important role. The payoff helped rank USF as 10th in the nation in 2014 for research patents, behind known heavyweights of Stanford, MIT and the UC California Regents system.
 
Recognized inventors from USF and around the world will gather in Washington D.C. on April 14-15 to share ideas, collaborate on emerging markets and highlight scientists and their inventions that have made an enduring impact. This is NAI’s Fifth Annual Conference and inventors need support more than ever before through encouragement and investments from NIH and NSF. 
 
Every year during this conference, inventors at the cutting edge are inducted as fellows of NAI. One such inspirational inventor is Rory A. Cooper, Ph.D., the founding Director and VA Senior Research Career Scientist at the Human Engineering Research Laboratories, a VA Rehabilitation Research and Development Center of Excellence in partnership with the University of Pittsburgh. He is also Chair of FISA and Paralyzed Veterans of America. Dr. Cooper’s expertise is in wheelchair technology for veterans and others with spinal cord injuries. His unique insight stems from being a U.S. Army veteran with a spinal injury; however, he has not let the injury keep him from living a full life.
 
As a wheelchair athlete, Dr. Cooper holds various world and national records in wheelchair racing.
 
As an engineer, he studies how a powered chair can climb a curb. 
 
Inventors such as Dr. Cooper are not only inspiring, but they keep America on the cutting-edge of research and technology. So let’s celebrate the innovations of Dr. Cooper and other NAI members and the organization’s growth in six short years.
 
Congratulations to this year’s class of Fellows who will be inducted into NAI, an elite group of 168 that holds a combined 5,368 patents. Let’s commit to further championing our nation’s researchers through the NAI and federal investments that will promote new discoveries, bolster our economy and create higher-paying jobs for our communities.
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