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Public Research University Innovators Lead the Newest Class of National Academy of Inventors Fellows

April 7, 2016

Washington, DC – Innovators at public research universities lead the newest class of Fellows of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). Among the 168 academic inventors selected for induction as NAI Fellows, 104 are from member universities of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU).

Fellows inducted this year join a group that now comprises 582 Fellows from more than 190 prestigious research universities and governmental and non-profit research institutes. Since 2012, the NAI has elected 582 Fellows, 350 of which are from APLU member universities.  Overall, the new class of Fellows accounts for 5,368 issued U.S. patents, bringing the collective patents held by all NAI Fellows to more than 20,000.

“We are proud that so many Fellows of the National Academy of Inventors are from public research universities, and in particular from APLU member institutions,” said Peter McPherson, President of APLU. “The membership in the Fellows of the NAI clearly demonstrates that our public research universities are a significant source of North American innovation.”

APLU is a research, policy, and advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening and advancing the work of public universities in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.  With a membership of 235 public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems, and affiliated organizations, APLU's agenda is built on the three pillars of increasing degree completion and academic success, advancing scientific research, and expanding engagement. Annually, APLU member campuses conduct $42.7 billion in university-based research.

Dr. Michael Tanner, APLU Senior Academic Counsel and former Chief Academic Officer, is one of this year’s NAI Fellows.  In the 1970s and 80s, Michael Tanner pioneered error-correcting coding system methods for digital data communication.   The 1981 patent recognizing this innovation and journal articles he wrote detailing its significance have had widespread impact on the practices in the design of error-correcting codes and decoders.  Coding systems that incorporate these innovations are now part of the communication standards for smartphones, for many types of Wi-Fi, and for satellites and deep space probes.

Tanner is also a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the California Council on Science and Technology, as well as a winner of the IEEE Information Golden Jubilee Paper Award for papers having widely recognized impact on the field.

APLU’s commitment to promoting, fostering, and encouraging innovation runs deep.  In 2013, APLU created the Innovation and Economic Prosperity (IEP) designation and awards program to recognize universities that are leaders in spurring and promoting regional economic development.  Overall, APLU has designated 48 of its public research university members as IEP Universities, recognizing invention, innovation, entrepreneurship, and contributions to economic development.

Election to NAI Fellow status is a high professional distinction given to academic inventors who have demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development, and the welfare of society.

The academic inventors and innovators elected to the rank of NAI Fellow are named inventors on U.S. patents and were nominated by their peers and chosen by a selection committee for their outstanding contributions to innovation in areas such as patents and licensing, innovative discovery and technology, significant impact on society, and support and enhancement of innovation.

The NAI Fellows will be inducted on Apr. 15, 2016, as part of the Fifth Annual Conference of the National Academy of Inventors at the United States Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, Virginia. U.S. Commissioner for Patents Andrew Hirshfeld will provide the keynote address for the induction ceremony. In honor of their outstanding accomplishments, Fellows will be presented with a special trophy, medal, and rosette pin.

"It is my privilege to welcome the outstanding academic inventors from the APLU universities as Fellows of the Academy," said Dr. Paul R. Sanberg, president of the NAI. “As a national resource in promoting economic engagement and innovation among public universities, the APLU has been a transformational force in higher education, and these inspiring Fellows embody that spirit of innovation and contribution through their research and discovery and the translation of their work to benefit society.”

Included among all NAI Fellows are more than 80 presidents and senior leaders of research universities and non-profit research institutes, 310 members of the three branches of the National Academy of Sciences, 27 inductees of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, 36 recipients of the U.S. National Medal of Technology and Innovation and U.S. National Medal of Science, 27 Nobel Laureates, 14 Lemelson-MIT Prize recipients, 170 AAAS Fellows, and 98 IEEE Fellows, among other awards and distinctions.

A complete list of NAI Fellows, including links to biographical information, is available here.

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