If you want to study in an innovative environment and are passionate about scientific and technological breakthroughs, you can identify a university for your graduate school studies by consulting Reuters’ latest ranking of the world's most innovative universities.

The annual ranking, released for the fourth time, is based on empirical data including patent filings from Derwent Innovation and research paper citations from the Web of Science to identify the educational institutions most successful in advancing science, inventing new technologies, and powering new markets and industries.


To create the ranking of the world’s most innovative universities, Reuters News relied on data compiled by Clarivate Analytics and several of its research platforms: InCites, Web of Science, Derwent Innovations Index, Derwent World Patents Index, and Patents Citation Index. The process began by identifying about 600 academic and government organisations that published the greatest number of articles in scholarly journals from 2011 to 2016, as indexed in the Clarivate Web of Science Core Collection database. The list was cross-referenced against the number of patents filed by each organisation during the same time period.

Next, the list was reduced to just those institutions that filed 70 or more world patents, the bulk of which were universities. Each candidate university was then evaluated using various indicators including how often a university’s patent applications were granted, how many patents were filed with global patent offices and local authorities and how often the university's patents were cited by others. Universities were also evaluated in terms of how often their research papers were cited by patents and the percentage of articles that featured a co-author from industry. Reuters used a number of criteria that contributed to each university’s composite score, which in turn determined the ranking of the universities according to innovative capacity and achievement. You can read the whole methodology here.

Stanford, MIT, and Harvard ranked top again

In 2018, North American universities continue to dominate the Reuters' ranking with 48 universities featuring in the top 100 – 46 in the US and two from Canada. Once again, Stanford University (US), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (US), and Harvard University (US) take the top three spots. Contributing to Stanford's solid foothold at number one is a steady stream of patents and research papers which are frequently cited by other academics and industrial firms around the world. Recent Stanford research highlights include several developments in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), including a next generation of camera systems to guide self-driving cars and simulators that can predict potential drug interactions before new pharmaceuticals are ever tested on humans.

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European universities take 27 places on the list, the highest ranked of which is Belgium's KU Leuven ranked #7, followed by Imperial College London (UK) (#8). Asia follows closely, with 23 universities, headed by Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology (KAIST), at #11 and Pohang University of Science & Technology (South Korea) (POSTECH) at #13.  

Germany and Japan are tied for second best-performing country, with nine universities each. South Korea has eight universities on the list; China, France, and the UK each have five; Switzerland has three; Belgium, Canada, Israel and the Netherlands have two, and Denmark and Singapore each have one. Regionally, Asia has 23 institutions on the list, and the Middle East has two. There are no universities in the top 100 located in Africa, South America, or Oceania.

The University of Manchester (UK) showed the biggest improvement in rank, surging 27 places in comparison to its showing in 2017. One explanation for this rapid rise is the university's world-leading research on graphene. The university is home to the UK's National Graphene Institute, as well as graphene pioneers and 2010 Nobel Prize recipients in Physics Sir Andre Geim and Sir Konstantin Novoselov. Patents relating to graphene account for about a quarter of all filings from the university over the six-year period surveyed (2011 - 2016).

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Here are the top five universities by continent. The place in the general ranking is indicated in brackets (#) before the name of the university.


Most innovative universities in North America

1. (#1) Stanford University (US)

2. (#2) Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US)

3. (#3) Harvard University (US)

4. (#4) University of Pennsylvania (US)

5. (#5) University of Washington (US)


Most innovative universities in Europe

1. (#7) KU Leuven (Belgium)

2. (#8) Imperial College London(UK)

3. (#12) Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (Switzerland)

4. (#18) University of Cambridge (UK)

5. (#31) University of Erlangen Nuremberg (Germany)


Most innovative universities in Asia

1. (#11) Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology (KAIST) (South Korea)

2. (#13) Pohang University of Science & Technology (POSTECH) (South Korea)

3. (#20) University of Tokyo (Japan)

4. (#22) Osaka University (Japan)

5. (#26) Kyoto University (Japan)


Sources: Reuters, PRNewswire