Updated for 2017: The 100 Most Innovative Universities

To highlight the world’s universities that are most successfully melding their research and strategic partnerships into measurable achievement in innovation, Reuters has once again turned to data from Clarivate Analytics. The result is the third annual Reuters ranking of “The Top 100 Most Innovative Universities.” This latest listing of standout institutions can be accessed here.

The new ranking, like its predecessors, is based on a series of specific metrics that assess the universities’ published research, as well as the quantity, impact and global reach of their patenting activity.  For a select group of institutions, consistently high performance on these measures confers standing among the Top 100.

As with previous Reuters listings, including coverage of the most innovative universities in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, this latest installment draws upon on a range of Clarivate Analytics information tools. These include the Web of Science™ Core Collection and its coverage of roughly 18,000 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 tracking how frequently other patents explicitly cite them. In this latest global listing, both the publication and patent output reflect the years 2010 to 2015, with citations recorded through March of 2017.

To narrow the analysis to institutions with substantial records in numbers of filed patents and patent-citation activity, an initial threshold was set for universities named as assignees on 70 or more world patents between 20010 and 2015.


Proven in Patenting

After determining the number of patents associated with each university, the analysis tracked the outcomes, as well as the worldwide reach, of those patents. For example, the “Patent Success” metric gauges 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. Because the international patent-application process is expensive and time consuming to pursue , 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 been 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 scrutinized 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 view of influence beyond the university walls, 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 the two previous Reuters rankings. In fact, the top three finishers – Stanford, MIT and Harvard – have maintained their placements for all three annual installments.

Below the first three, however, there are some notable changes in the top 10. The University of Pennsylvania and KU Leuven, last year’s #8 and #9 respectively, both climb into the top five. Furthermore, at #5, KU Leuven supplants KAIST (the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, which holds its #6 rung from last year) as the highest-placed non-US university. Perhaps no advancement, however, is more impressive than that of Vanderbilt University, which jumps 10 spaces from last year to take the #10 spot.

In terms of overall national representation in the ranking, summarized below, the United States regained some ground with 49 universities, up from last year’s mark of 46. Japan’s share slipped by one institution, while South Korea and Germany matched their respective counts from last year. France, meanwhile, saw its tally decrease from eight to five.


Number of Universities
USA 49
Japan 8
South Korea 8
Germany 7
France 5
UK 5
China 3
Israel 3
Switzerland 3
Belgium 2
Canada 2
Denmark 2
Netherlands 2
Singapore 1


Table 1. Countries ranked by number of universities in the Top 100
Source: Clarivate Analytics Web of Science and Derwent Innovations Index


To see the entire listing of the 100 universities, please click here.


Innovation Ranking Dashboard: Explore the Variables

Last May, in conjunction with the Reuters ranking of the Asia-Pacific region’s most innovative universities, Clarivate Analytics introduced its Innovation Ranking Dashboard. This interactive tool allows a user to simulate rankings by manipulating the variables that go into the calculation of the “most innovative universities” listings.

Along with the Europe and Asia-Pacific university data sets from previous rankings, the institutions and metrics from this latest global listing have now been added.

With this freely available resource, users can manipulate the specific data points discussed above and gauge the effect on overall performance. For example, what if a university increased its patent volume by 10 percent, or its share of articles written in collaboration with industry by 20 percent – how would these variations affect its ultimate placement? In all, 10 of the metrics behind the “most innovative” rankings can be adjusted.


For free access to the Innovation Ranking Dashboard, please click here.