Thanks in part to the state-funded Utah Science Technology and Research program, Utah finds itself at the top of the list for independent inventor patents awarded per capita in the nation for 2010, according to the Kauffman Foundation.
It seems like Utah can't stop its inventive spirit, generating 22.1 patents per 1 million people, which is nearly one-and-a-half times the patents per capita created by Oregon, which had 14.4 patents, according to the 2010 State New Economy Index. The group calculated the number of inventor patents as filed at the PTO and divided by the population of each state, according to Rob Atkinson of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, who lead the study.
However, inventor patents have not been immune from the economic downturn and the number of patents declined from 14,000 in 2006 to 12,500 in 2009, according to the 2010 study.
The 2010 State New Economy Index ranks Utah 17th in patents, with Idaho No. 1.
Utah taking the lead in inventor patents might come as a surprise, as many would guess that many of the inventions took place in California's Silicon Valley and Stanford, or among the scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Michael O'Malley, communications director of Utah Science Technology and Research Initiative, an economic development group, said, "USTAR is a small factor in all of this, but USTAR is probably indicative of a state policy that is friendly towards business and entrepreneurs. That's probably the bigger factor."
In addition, the Technology Commercialization offices at USU and University of Utah - that work with USTAR - have helped to increase the number of patents and start-ups in the last several years, O'Malley said.
To date, USTAR has provided grants to 76 projects, which have helped spark 27 new patents and disclosures, according to O'Malley.
He added, "(The presidents of both universities) have really focused (their schools) on becoming entrepreneurial engines."
Inventors in the state are particularly busy in the biomedical, information technology, energy (conventional and alternative), and homeland security industries, O'Malley told The Herald Journal.
So not all of those inventors are with USTAR, based at the University of Utah and Utah State University. In fact, some of those inventors are right here in Logan.
Conly Hansen, director and professor for the Center for Profitable Uses of Agricultural Byproducts, received a patent for an anaerobic reactor in June. The CPUAB invented an anaerobic digester system based on the induced blanket reactor or IBR that can produce electricity, heat and soil amendment from manure and food processing waste, according to the CPUAB website.
A pilot version of it is located at the Logan wastewater lagoons.
The IBR digester employs a septum and a rotating apparatus to trap methanogenic bacteria and overcome plugging, Hansen said. The septums, submerged in tanks 33 feet high by 13 feet wide, induce a blanket or bed of living bacteria in the lower portion of the tank. Waste passing through the blanket is converted into energy.
"We produce methane and hydrogen gas with these things," Hansen said. "The one at Logan lagoon uses ... food processing waste and municipal waste. It has to be organic ... we're not quite there yet in making it in commercial scale for the city, but for farmers, we've been doing it for years."
Hansen says the IBR at Logan is still smaller in scale because scientists are still learning how to "treat food processing waste."
"Probably the best thing for Logan is not the biofuels it makes but rather the fact that it's destroying solids that would go into a landfill and would cause greenhouse gases," Hansen said. "And also it's destroying solids that would go into a waste treatment system and then take up space."