The world’s 100 most innovative universities: US top three continue to dominate

The world’s 100 most innovative universities: US top three continue to dominate

The drive for economic growth around the world is seeing regions strive to create their own innovation ecosystems. Universities are an important aspect of an innovation ecosystem, so for the second year running, Reuters has created its index of the world’s top 100 most innovative universities, highlighting those educational institutions doing the most to advance science and invent new technologies and help drive the global economy.

Not surprisingly, the world’s top three continue to be Stanford University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (ranked #2) and Harvard University (ranked #3).

The importance of university research and innovation and its link with economic growth can be illustrated as follows: a 2012 study by Stanford University estimated that all the companies formed by Stanford entrepreneurs generate $2.7 trillion in annual revenue, which would be equivalent to the 10th largest economy in the world. In fact, companies founded by Stanford alumni – including Hewlett Packard and Google – have become household names, and have upended existing industries and been the cornerstone of entirely new economies.

The Reuters list says Stanford held on to its first place ranking by consistently producing new patents and papers that influence researchers elsewhere in academia and in private industry. These are key criteria in the ranking of the world’s most innovative universities, compiled with data from the Intellectual Property & Science division of Thomson Reuters. The methodology focuses on academic papers (which indicate basic research performed at a university) and patent filings (which point to an institution’s interest in commercializing its discoveries).

Some universities saw significant upward movement in the rankings, including, most notably, the University of Chicago, which jumped from #71 last year to #47 in 2016. Other list-climbers include the Netherlands’ Delft University of Technology (#73 to #44) and South Korea’s Sungkyunkwan University (#66 to #46).

While individual universities move up and down the ranking, the regional breakdown remains largely the same year over year. The United States continues to dominate the list, with 46 universities in the top 100; Japan is once again the second best performing country, with nine universities. France and South Korea are tied in third, each with eight. Germany has seven ranked universities; the United Kingdom has five; Switzerland, Belgium and Israel have three; Denmark, China and Canada have two; and the Netherlands and Singapore each have one.

Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology, or KAIST
Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology, or KAIST

The highest ranked university outside the U.S. is the Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology, or KAIST, ranked #6. (KAIST placed first on Reuters’ recently published list of Asia’s Most Innovative Universities. Established in 1971 by the Korean government, KAIST was modeled after engineering schools in the United States, and initially funded with a multimillion-dollar loan from the United States Agency for International Development.

Most major courses are taught in English, and the university maintains strong links to the US academic community. The most innovative university in Europe is KU Leuven, ranked #9, a Dutch-speaking school based in Belgium’s Flanders region. Founded in 1425 by Pope Martin V, it is the world’s oldest Catholic university, but its modern mission is comprehensive and advanced scientific research, and it operates autonomously from the church.

In tandem, Reuters’ also produced regional innovation lists: Asia’s Most Innovative Universities and Europe’s Most Innovative Universities. An institution’s relative ranking may change from the global list to the regional list, since each ranking is dependent on summarizing 10 indicators and comparing that with others in a specific population; when that population changes, individual rankings might change as well. Furthermore, the global list is restricted to institutions that filed 70 or more patents with the World Intellectual Property Organization during the five-year period examined by Thomson Reuters. The cut off for regional lists is just 50 patents, allowing a more in-depth view of the most active institutions within a limited geographic area.

The methodology for creating the list began by identifying approximately 600 academic and government organizations that published the greatest number of articles in scholarly journals from 2009 to 2014, as indexed in the Thomson Reuters Web of Science Core Collection database. The list was cross referenced against the number of patents filed by each organization during the same time period in the Derwent World Patents Index and the Derwent Innovations Index. Patent equivalents, citing patents and citing articles were included up to March 2016. The timeframe allows for the articles and patent activity to receive citations, thereby contributing to that portion of the methodology.

Next, the list was reduced to just those institutions that filed 70 or more world (WIPO) patents, the bulk of which were universities. Each candidate university was then evaluated using various indicators including how often a university’s patent applications were granted; how many patents were filed with global patent offices and local authorities; and how often the university’s patents were cited by others. Universities were also evaluated in terms of how often their research papers were cited by patents; and the percentage of articles that featured a co-author from industry.

For the full list of global rankings of the world’s 100 most innovative universities, click here.

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