Foreigners leading field in innovative US patents: study

Foreign students are cooking up a storm at US universities leading cutting-edge innovation, and are behind an overwhelming number of patents for new inventions, a new study said Tuesday.

"More than three out of every four patents at the top 10 patent-producing US universities (76 percent) had at least one foreign-born inventor," said the report "Patent Pending: How Immigrants Are Reinventing The American Economy."

The study came from "The Partnership for a New American Economy" bringing together over 450 Republican, Democratic and independent business leaders.

And in a bid to end a brain drain that sees such young talent head back to their countries of origin after graduation, the heads of some 90 universities have sent the study to the White House and Congress.

They called for a bipartisan solution to allow the best foreign graduates to have a clear path towards obtaining a Green Card to stay and work in the US.

"Under current immigration law, when many of these student inventors graduate, they are unable to get a visa that would allow them to stay in the US and potentially help create jobs," the group said in a statement.

"The study also found that 99 percent of the patents by these foreign-born inventors were in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), while the US is projected to face a shortfall of 230,000 qualified advanced-degree STEM workers by 2018," it added.

Foreign inventors were leading innovation in "cutting-edge fields like semiconductor device manufacturing (87 percent), information technology (84 percent), pulse or digital communications (83 percent), pharmaceutical drugs or drug compounds (79 percent), and optics (77 percent)."

Any hopes of introducing immigration reform in Congress have receded as the nation gears up for the 2012 elections in November.

"More than half of all patents (54 percent) were awarded to the group of foreign inventors most likely to face visa hurdles: students, postdoctoral fellows, or staff researchers," the study added.

President Barack Obama's so far unfulfilled vow to bring some 11 million illegal immigrants out of the shadows, which is opposed by conservatives, is emerging as a key issue in the 2012 election.

Earlier this month, Obama infuriated illegal immigration hawks by offering those brought to America illegally, between the ages of 16 and 30, work permits and a two year stay of deportation proceedings.

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