For 2018, Europe’s top 100 most innovative universities

Using data from Clarivate Analytics, Reuters has updated its annual presentation of the world’s most innovative institutions. This installment covers European universities. The new listing of Europe’s top 100, like the rankings in each of the two previous years, is based on publication and patent figures supplied by Clarivate. These data points specify the institutions that combine prolific research output, productive partnerships with industry, and consistent achievement at securing successful patents for their intellectual property.

This new ranking appears at a time of uncertainty regarding a post-Brexit Europe. For example, some observers have suggested that Brexit’s impending upheavals may already be prompting European researchers to cast their lots with institutions on the continent or in the USA – and away from the United Kingdom.

For now, however, we concentrate on the ranking itself. Data tools from Clarivate afford a unique perspective to these Reuters listings. Unlike multidimensional rankings that are primarily designed to assess the research or educational performance of academic institutions, the Reuters rankings strictly focus on innovation. Each university’s ultimate score, based on a calibrated mix of bibliometric and patent indicators, reflects a full range of activities related to innovation, knowledge transfer, and economic impact. These scores, of course, determined the final placements in the top 100, based on the methodology described below.

Unlike multidimensional rankings that are primarily designed to assess the research or educational performance of academic institutions, the Reuters rankings strictly focus on innovation.

The accompanying table shows the top 10 universities, according to quantifiable strength in innovation. The complete 2018 ranking, based on data compiled for the period 2011 to 2016, can be accessed here.


2018: Europe’s Most Innovative Universities – The Top 10
Rank Institution Country
1 KU Leuven Belgium
2 Imperial College London United Kingdom
3 University of Cambridge United Kingdom
4 Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne Switzerland
5 University of Erlangen Nuremberg Germany
6 Technical University of Munich Germany
7 University of Manchester United Kingdom
8 University of Munich Germany
9 Technical University of Denmark Denmark
10 Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich Switzerland

Source: Clarivate Analytics


Yet Again, KU Leuven is Undisputed at #1

For a third consecutive year, thanks to an optimal combination of research output, patent success, and industry collaboration, Katholieke Universiteit (KU) Leuven earns the #1 spot, joined by five other Belgium-based universities in the Top 100. According to the Web of Science, KU Leuven’s highest concentration of papers for the years 2011 to 1016 were indexed in the Web of Science category of Electrical & Electronic Engineering, with the next-highest tally in Oncology. At this writing, 11 KU Leuven-affiliated authors have made at least one appearance among the annual ranks of Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited Researchers.

KU Leuven is not alone in its steadfast presence atop the list: Imperial College London (ICL) appears for a third straight year in the #2 position. Between 2011 and 2016, ICL’s highest concentration of Web of Science-indexed papers was in the category of Cardiac & Cardiovascular Systems, followed closely by Surgery. Fifteen authors listing ICL as a primary affiliation have been identified as Highly Cited Researchers.

Meanwhile, the University of Cambridge has also been consistent, repeating its third-place showing from the previous two listings. Cambridge’s top concentration in Web of Science categories for the six-year period in question was in Astronomy & Astrophysics, followed by papers in the Multidisciplinary category (referring, as the name implies, to papers published in multidisciplinary journals such as Nature and Science). By now, Cambridge’s representation among Highly Cited Researchers is nearing three dozen.


National Trends

In terms of national representation in the current Top 100, Germany claims top honors, with 23 universities, matching its total from last year. The United Kingdom follows closely with 21 schools, while France registers with 18.

In terms of national representation in the current Top 100, Germany claims top honors, with 23 universities, matching its total from last year.

A more-retrospective view, taking into account the average placement of Germany-based universities in the last two rankings, confirms the nation’s strength in this regard. In all, Germany’s universities climbed an average of four spaces. Leading this ascent in particular were RWTH Aachen, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, and the University of Munster.

Meanwhile, the Netherlands saw its average placements dip somewhat, although Utrecht University was an exception.

Whether up or down, the overall placements of all the nations were affected by this year’s emergence of 15 universities that did not appear in either of the two previous listings. Most of these universities owe their debuts to increases in patent activity that took them beyond the survey’s customary benchmark of 50 patent applications (see below for the specific methodology used in determining the rankings). Three institutions, however (University College London, Université Grenoble Alpes and the University of Nantes), are new in the listings, either due to a change in the survey’s methodology that ranked them separately from their parent systems, or, in the case of Grenoble Alpes, to an institutional merger.



To generate the rankings, Clarivate analysts turned to InCites, a resource built on Web of Science data, designed to track and benchmark performance in research output and impact on the part of individuals, institutions, nations, and regions. The first step was to identify Europe-based institutions that each produced a substantial body of research, as determined by the number of papers indexed in the Web of Science Core Collection between 2011 and 2016.

With nearly 200 of Europe’s most prolific academic and government institutions identified by their indexed publications in the Web of Science, the next step was to ascertain the extent to which this output was successfully turned to patents. For this stage, and the final winnowing to the top 100, the analysts consulted two additional Clarivate resources: Derwent World Patents Index, and Derwent Innovations Index. As an initial benchmark, further analysis was confined to institutions – most of them universities – that produced 50 or more patents.

In addition to determining the number of patents associated with each university, the analysis tracked the outcomes, as well as the international reach, of those patents. The “Patent Success” metric, for example, provides a ratio of patent applications to those that are actually granted. “Global Patents,” meanwhile, conveys the ratio of patents that are filed with US, European, and Japanese patent offices. Because these international application processes require considerable time and expense, the effort to pursue so-called triadic patents implies institutional belief in innovations that hold the potential for widespread commercial success.

Analysts also consulted “Patent Citations,” gauging the rate at which a university’s patents are cited by other patents, along with another metric conveying the overall percentage of patents that are cited. These measures provide an indicator of influence in ongoing research and development. Along with the assessment of citations in other patents, the analysis included gauging how frequently an average journal article from an institution is cited by patents. This metric provides a clear link between a university’s basic research and its influence in applied technology.

In further scrutiny of the universities’ published papers, analysts tallied reports that listed at least one author from a commercial or industrial firm – as opposed to authors affiliated at other universities – as an indicator of immediate ties to the marketplace. In turn, the influence of these university/industry collaborations was gauged by examining how many reports that cited these papers also featured collaborations between academic and industrial researchers.

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

Learn more. See the entire listing of the Top 100 universities from Reuters, read about universities’ research and innovation, and select and compare schools using an interactive feature. Read about methodology behind the selection here.

Learn how Clarivate’s data powers other areas of innovative research, such as climate change.

Photo credit: KU Leuven – Rob Stevens.