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Which of the world’s universities are most successfully turning their research and strategic partnerships into measurable achievement in innovation? Reuters, using data generated by the IP & Science business of Thomson Reuters, has once again addressed this question, with an update to its ranking of “The Top 100 Most Innovative Universities,” which first appeared last year. The new, complete listing of universities can be accessed here.

Like its predecessor, the new ranking is based on the universities’ published research, as well as on the quantity, impact and reach of their patenting activity. Notable performance at the intersection of these two endeavors, as quantified by a series of specific metrics, has lifted an elite selection of universities to “Top 100” status.

As with other recent Reuters rankings of the most innovative universities in Europe and Asia, the latest worldwide listing draws upon on a range of IP & Science data tools. These include the Web of Science™ Core Collection and its coverage of roughly 15,000 scholarly journals and other sources, along with Derwent World Patents Index®, a compilation of data from 50 worldwide patent-issuing authorities, and Derwent Patent Citation Index, which measures the influence of patents by compiling how frequently other patents explicitly cite them. Both the publication and patent output reflects the years 2009 to 2014, with citations recorded through July of 2016.

As an initial threshold to confine the analysis to universities with comparatively robust records in filed patents and patent-citation activity, the field was narrowed to universities that were named as assignees on 70 or more world patents between 2009 and 2014.

Patently Accomplished

After ascertaining the number of patents associated with each university, the analysis tracked the outcomes, as well as the global reach, of those patents. For example, the “Patent Success” metric conveys the percentage of the university’s patent applications that have been successfully granted. Another measure, “Global Patents,” specifies the percentage of patents the university has filed with US, European, or Japanese patent offices. Given the time, labor, and expense required to pursue the international patent-application process, the willingness of an institution to do so indicates particular belief in the commercial viability and potential value of an invention.

To assess the overall influence of patents in ongoing research and development, analysts also examined the extent to which a university’s patents are cited by other patents (including measurements that reflect both a university’s total portfolio as well as individual patents). Each university’s research publications also came under scrutiny in this context, with an examination of how many times, on average, a school’s research papers have cited by patents. Such a pattern indicates a clear link between a university’s basic research and its influence in applied technology.

The universities’ published papers were also examined from another angle, to determine the percentage that listed at least one coauthor affiliated with a commercial or industrial firm, thereby demonstrating consistent partnerships outside academia. For an additional read on influence beyond the university sphere, another measurement determined the average number of times an article was cited by papers that were written exclusively by industry-affiliated authors.

Ultimately, according to performance on these various measures, analysts calculated a combined score for each university, and the ranking of the top 100 performers was determined.

Stanford Still the Standout

In the final tabulation, based on the criteria combining publications, patent impact, and industrial ties, Stanford University ranks first, repeating its performance from last year’s listing. In fact, the top three finishers from last year – Stanford, MIT and Harvard – wind up in the same order in this new installment.

Below the first three, however, the list displays some reshuffling. KAIST (the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology), #10 last time, has climbed to #6 (maintaining its status as the highest-placed non-US university), while KU Leuven, formerly #16, makes the leap into the top 10, winding up ninth. Other universities that saw notable advances in placement are the University of Tokyo, the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, and Vanderbilt University.

Also notable is a slight shift in the national representation in the ranking, summarized below. Last year, the United States accounted for 50 of the top 100. In the new listing, the USA’s share has slipped to 46. Germany, Belgium and Israel gained incrementally by adding another university to their showings compared to the previous ranking, as did China.

Country Number of Universities
USA 46
Japan 9
France 8
South Korea 8
Germany 7
UK 5
Belgium 3
Israel 3
Switzerland 3
Canada 2
China 2
Denmark 2
Netherlands 1
Singapore 1

TABLE 1: Countries ranked by number of universities in the Top 100
Source: Web of Science; Derwent Innovations Index

To see the entire listing of the 100 universities, please go to reuters.com/most-innovative-universities-2016

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