(Reuters) - “Innovation” is one of the most oft-cited buzzwords in both academia and the business world, but its usage isn’t consistent. It can mean that an organization regularly produces new ideas or unique products; that its internal policies and practices are significantly different from the competition; or simply that members are encouraged to think creatively and pursue disruptive ideas.
This might sound like a semantic problem. But the confusion means that innovation is hard to measure - and that can be a huge roadblock to economic and technological development. Since World War II, universities around the world have been relied on to convert public funding into knowledge and products that help drive the global economy. So how can potential partners, investors, faculty and students know if an institution is really transforming science and technology and impacting the global economy?
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To answer that question, Reuters set out to find and rank the world's top 100 innovative universities empirically, building a methodology that employs 10 different metrics. The criteria focused on academic papers, which indicate basic research performed at a university, and patent filings, which point to an institution's interest in protecting and commercializing its discoveries. Compiled by the Intellectual Property & Science business of Thomson Reuters, the list uses proprietary data and analysis tools. (For a detailed methodology, click here.)
Leading the Reuters Top 100 is Stanford University. Located in the heart of California's Silicon Valley, Stanford has earned a reputation as a hotbed for innovation in computer hardware and software: its faculty and alumni have founded some of the biggest tech companies in the world, including Hewlett-Packard, Yahoo and Google. A 2012 study by the university estimated that all the companies formed by Stanford entrepreneurs generate total global revenue of $2.7 trillion annually.
Stanford edged out other tech giants (like second-place finisher Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Ivy League stalwarts (like third-place Harvard University), by scoring consistently well across each of our criteria with especially high marks when it came to impactful research: its articles and patents are frequently cited by researchers elsewhere in the academic and corporate worlds.