With the advent of the new era of technology over the last two decades, perhaps the most oft-cited buzzwords circling around both academia and businesses is “innovation”. However, its usage is anything but consistent. While it can mean encouraging a team to think creatively with disruptive ideas, it can also mean an organization consistently creating new ideas or products or even that its internal processes and procedures are different from its competitors.
The problem with this goes beyond semantics; instead, this broad-based definitions and applications of “innovation” means that innovation in and of itself, is difficult to measure. Consequently, this can present a potential roadblock to both economic and technological advancements. How you might ask?
Well, since World War II, institutions have been made responsible to create knowledge and products to produce quality and educated talents that drive the global economy from public funding. The question then is how can prospective partners, investors, faculty and even students be certain that institutions are truly impacting the global economy through science and technology?
Reuters, the leading international news agency headquartered in the UK, set out to answer that question with its latest release of the World’s Top 100 Most Innovative Universities through a methodology that utilizes ten different metrics. The list focused on articles in scholarly journals (to showcase research performed at the university), filing of patents (indicating an institution’s intent to protect and commercialize its findings). The research was done by Reuters’ sister company, Thomson Reuters Intellectual Property & Science and several of its research platforms – InCities, Web of Science Core Collection, Derwent Innovations Index, Derwent World Patents Index and Patents Citation Index – with proprietary tools. To learn more about the methodology, you can view it here.
Leading the pack on Reuters Top 100 innovative universities around the world is none other than Stanford universities, reflecting its position and reputation for breakthrough ideas and innovation at the heart of Silicon Valley. Stanford’s list of stellar alumni include Microsoft’s CEO, Steve Balmer, Google’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin and Hewlett-Packard cofounders, Bill Hewlett and Bill Packard. According to a study in 2012 by the university, Stanford entrepreneurs have built companies that have generated in excess of USD$2.7 trillion annually.
The top nine spots on the ranking was dominated by US universities, with Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University taking second and third place respectively.
Taking the last spot to make up the top 10 list is the only non-US school, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology (KAIST), while Europe’s most innovative university, Imperial College London ranked 11th spot overall. Coming in second and third place within the European continent are much older universities (compared to Imperial College London), with Belgium’s KU Leuven (founded in 1425) ranked 16th and England’s University of Cambridge (founded in 1209). Strikingly, Switzerland has three schools on the list, hence having more top 100 innovative universities per capita than any other country around the world.
Key findings of the Reuters Top 100 indicate strong and growing performance of institutions based outside of the United States. In fact, more than half are located in Canada, Europe or Asia. Asian schools are a rising force for science and innovation, turning this knowledge into products. For example, South Korea – home to tech giant Samsung – scored high in patent approvals and has eight schools listed on the Reuters Top 100, making it the country with the third most number of universities on the list. Japan comes in a strong second after the US with nine universities in the Reuters Top 100.
A look at the Reuters Top 100 list shows that all universities in the ranking represent the most highly regarded and respected institutions around the world. Of the 500 universities with the most patents filed and articles published in scholarly journals reviewed to produce this ranking, the ones that made it to the list represent the creme de la creme of higher education institutions in the world. The rankings for Reuters Top 100 measure innovation on a university-wide scale (or sometimes, systemwide); as such, this may sometimes overlook uniquely innovative departments or programs. Hence, exclusion from the Reuters Top 100 by no means point out that an institution fails to innovate or isn’t innovative. For example, a small liberal arts college may not be ranked for innovation, but still operate one of the most innovative computer science departments in the world.
The primary objective of the Reuters Top 100 World’s Most Innovative Universities aims to get to core of what it means for institutions to be truly innovative. The institutions in the ranking reflect the highest standards of producing original content and research, creating useful and impactful technology, thereby resulting in having the greatest economic impact.