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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Which universities are the most innovative?

Follow on Twitter as @elliebothwell
Ellie Bothwell, International and rankings reporter at Times Higher Education introduces our four ‘innovation indicators’ and reveals the strongest performers as we visualise a new ranking based on university-industry collaboration.

Photo: Times Higher Education

A cloak with the magical power to make things under it invisible? Authors have fantasised about the possibilities of such a garment for centuries, but in 2006 scientists declared that fiction had become reality with the invention of a device that makes objects disappear – at least when viewed in the microwave spectrum. Crafted from synthetic “metamaterials”, the cape is the result of a collaboration between scientists at Duke University, Imperial College London and Sensormetrix, a California-based company that develops technology for governmental and defence clients. As the technology advances, scientists say that it could be used in military operations, to disguise vehicles, for example. David Smith, the James B. Duke professor of electrical and computer engineering at Duke, says Sensormetrix was instrumental in the financing and construction of the cloak sample.

Such university-industry partnerships are increasingly common as higher education institutions around the world seek to enhance their research, find new applications for their work and boost revenues.

In the UK, interactions between universities and the economy increased in volume by 10 per cent between 2012-13 and 2013-14 through activities such as collaborative and contract research, consultancy and intellectual property income. Figures released by the Higher Education Funding Council for England last month suggest that the worth of these partnerships grew by £300 million to £3.9 billion during the same period.

According to Robert Tijssen, chair of science and innovation studies at Leiden University in the Netherlands, alongside societal engagement, “university-industry connectivity is now the third mission of a university, next to teaching and training and research”.

Data published by Times Higher Education this week in collaboration with Elsevier aim to shed new light on the world of university innovations and inventions by revealing which institutions show the strongest performance across four indicators: the ratio of papers co-authored with industry, the proportion of papers cited by patents, the quantity of research income from industry and the proportion of research income from industry.

Many of the institutions that perform well have not featured prominently, or at all, in Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings because they do not have breadth of research or teaching. However, they are exceptional within a specific field.

Across the indicators, the US and China dominate, with nine and 10 institutions respectively in our tables. Only one UK institution – the Institute of Cancer Research – features.

China’s Southwest Petroleum University has the highest percentage of papers co-authored with industry while the US’ Scripps Research Institute, which conducts biomedical research, produces the highest proportion of papers that have been cited by patents. Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, one of Germany’s oldest universities, claims the largest quantity of research income from industry, and the Siberian State University of Geosystems and Technologies has the highest proportion of income from industry sources.
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Source: Times Higher Education