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Northwestern Named Sixth Most Innovative University in the World

Reuters ranked Universities on patents, research citations, and collaboration with industry

Innovation can be tricky to measure. What does it mean to be innovative? Who is the most innovative?

Reuters News recently set out to find that answer. Using a data-based methodology that employed 10 different metrics, they developed a list of the world’s top 100 most innovative universities – and ranked Northwestern University sixth.

The rankings used proprietary analysis tools to measure factors such as patent volume and success, research article volume and patent citations, and research collaboration with industry.

Joseph Moskal

“The Reuters Top 100 World's Most Innovative Universities gets to the essence of what it means to be truly innovative; the institutions recognized here most reliably produce original research, create useful technology, and have the greatest economic impact,” they wrote. “They are the surest bets for anyone seeking to invest in and create real innovation.”

Northwestern’s high ranking was due to its $600 million in annual research funding and its recent startup successes. Naurex, a biopharmaceutical startup spun off from research conducted by biomedical engineering professor Joseph Moskal, was recently sold to pharmaceutical company Allergan for $560 million. MAKO Surgical, a company originally founded by mechanical engineering professor Michael Peshkin, was purchased by Stryker Corp in 2013 for more than $1.6 billion.

To create the rankings, Reuters used data compiled by Thomson Reuters Intellectual Property & Science and several of its research platforms. They began by identifying the 500 academic and government organizations that published the greatest number of articles in scholarly journals from 2008 to 2013. The list was cross-referenced against the number of patents filed by each organization during the same time period. 

Michael Peshkin

They then reduced the list to institutions that filed more than 70 patents and evaluated each candidate on how many patent applications were filed, how often they were granted, and how often those patents were cited by others. Universities were also evaluated on how often their research papers were cited by patents and how often their articles featured a co-author from industry.

From 2008 to 2013, Northwestern filed 300 patents and was granted 47 percent of those applications. Its commercial impact score (as measured by academic papers cited in patent filings) was 65.5, compared to an average of 54.2. Reuters also cited Northwestern’s new Garage, an ideas incubator opened this year that provides a place for student entrepreneurs to prototype ideas, as proof of its commitment to innovation. 

Other Northwestern innovations have also seen success recently. Narrative Science, a Northwestern startup founded by computer science professors Kristian Hammond and Larry Birnbaum, turns data into natural language narratives. They recently released Quill Engage, an application that translates Google Analytics data into narrative reports. 

4C, a data science software company founded by computer engineering professor Alok Choudhary, built the first platform to enable advertising across several social media platforms through certified API access and is the only company to combine data from set-top boxes, ad occurrence, ad scheduling, and social media for TV ad measurement, planning, and verification at scale.