Recent Advances & Trends – South Africa’s Top 5 Innovative Universities

What are the recent advances and trends in the scientific research and innovation outputs of South African universities?

We have taken a retrospective look at the Top 5 Innovative Universities in South Africa, examining what these institutions are doing in relation to collaborative and industry partners and their conversion of science into innovation. North-West University (NWU), which was not in the top five producers of research but was in the top five patent filers, had a filing strategy of more patent family members per invention than other universities. The NWU’s published-patent output is higher, helping the university attain the #1 position in innovation. NWU displays confidence in its IP portfolio, taking it to the most relevant economies for commercialization.

While some universities had a clear niche area of research expertise, this trend was not always apparent with patents. This provides evidence that more research should take an applied angle to increase the conversion rate into IP. Also, some interesting examples achieved prominence in regard to the amount of patents that were collaborative. The more collaboration a university had, the more diverse its patent portfolio appeared to be.

Overall, there is transformation of research into patents, but this appears to have been determined by other subjective factors such as the IP strategy of each university. The importance of producing high-impact research and focusing on specialty areas is something that South African universities are already realizing, and some may opt to increase their number of industry collaborations in order to diversify their patent-portfolio strengths. It is apparent, however, that patent filing is reaching a plateau, and the most important take-away message for universities is to consider how to increase the rate and quality of research which will ultimately translate into patents filed.


Find out more in our Top 5 SA Universities Report, download it today!

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For more information on partnerships in Africa, please contact:


Zulfaqar Dudhia
IP Specialist, Sub-Saharan Africa, Clarivate Analytics
Phone: +27712172794