ATLANTA -- Anyone's list of American institutions that produce the most inventions would likely include Georgia Tech, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford and Cornell. But a tiny Georgia foundation dedicated to research on paper making ranks ahead of those stalwarts.
The Institute of Paper Science and Technology is the fifth most prolific research center, overshadowing outfits many times larger, according to a recent analysis of inventions per faculty member conducted by the Research Foundation of State University of New York.
"That's one of our points: inventions don't depend on the size of the institution nor on its success in attracting federal grants," write the authors of the study.
The ranking places California Institute of Technology first with 65 patents per 100 faculty. The paper institute at No. 5 had 29 patents per 100 faculty, with MIT at 21, and Georgia Tech at 14, all based on 1998 data.
The independent graduate school funded by the pulp and paper industry scored higher than better-known universities and hospitals searching for innovations in less mature fields like electronics and medicine.
After all, the Chinese began making paper out of pulp left from rotting fishing nets in 200 B.C. And the Institute of Paper's own scientists discovered some of the most significant breakthroughs in the early years after the organization was founded in 1929 in Appleton, Wis., by a handful of paper companies.
Ten years ago, the institute followed the rest of the paper industry south to sit on a campus corner of the much larger Georgia Institute of Technology (No. 7 on the ranking). The South is the world's leading paper producer, and Georgia's 27 major pulp mills employ 35,000 people with an annual payroll of $1.6 billion.
Today, the paper institute's professors and students are researching such new challenges as ways to break down Post-It note glue in recycling, reduce pulp mill odor and map pine-tree genes. …