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Immigrants responsible for large share of U.S. patents, study finds

June 26, 2012|By Tiffany Hsu
  • New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg co-founded a group, the Partnership for a New American Economy, that seeks to reform immigration policy.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg co-founded a group, the Partnership for… (Felipe Dana / AP Photo )

Foreign-born inventors are responsible for more than three-quarters of the patents that emerged from top American research universities last year, according to a new report.

The Partnership for a New American Economy, a bipartisan nonprofit group composed of hundreds of mayors and business leaders and co-chaired by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, released the report Tuesday as part of its effort to reform immigration policies.

The report is based on a study of 1,466 patents from the country’s top 10 patent-generating schools, including the University of California system, Stanford and Caltech. Such universities account for more than half of all basic research in the country.

Out of the 76% of patents that came from work conducted by immigrants, 99% were in science, technology, engineering and math (or STEM). The U.S. is projected to have a shortage of 230,000 advanced degree workers in such STEM fields by 2018, according to the report.

The immigrant innovators included in the study hail from 88 companies and lead discoveries in fields such as semiconductor device manufacturing, information technology, pharmaceuticals and more, according to researchers.

The partnership that produced the report is clear about its intentions. It seeks new rules that help international students in the U.S. easily land a green card or a permanent visa, processes that currently tend to be complicated and prolonged.

Supporters believe such a change could boost employment at home, enticing highly educated immigrants from taking their talents to competing countries. For each graduate with an advanced degree in a STEM field in the U.S., 2.62 jobs are created on average, according to the study.


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