Putting a number on innovation isn’t easy but Times Higher Education has taken measures based on the quality of universities’ partnerships with industry. Such partnerships have been rising rapidly — they jumped by 10% in the 2013/14 academic year as universities sought ways to bolster research, find homes for new ideas, and boost revenues.

The Times survey ranks institutions on four factors: the ratio of papers co-authored with industry, the proportion of papers cited by patents, the quantity of research income from industry, and the proportion of research income from industry. Interestingly, the names in these league tables tend not to appear in other rankings — the innovators tend to be excellent in a narrow field rather than great across a broad swathe of academia.

Universities from China, the US, Russia and Germany figure prominently. China’s Southwest Petroleum University has the highest percentage of papers co-authored with industry. The Scripps Research Institute (US biomedical research) produces the highest proportion of papers cited in patents. Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich has the highest proportion of research income from industry, while the Siberian State University of Geosystems and Technologies has the greatest percentage of income from industry sources.

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University-industry partnerships do face challenges and universities are developing guidelines to ensure transparency, independence and best practices. Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands won’t conduct research with industry if the research can then not be published. Duke University in the United States will not engage in research which ends with industry owning the intellectual property.

Author: Donald Armbrecht is a freelance writer and social media producer.

Image: Bipedal humanoid robot “Atlas”, primarily developed by the American robotics company Boston Dynamics, is presented to the media during a news conference at the University of Hong Kong. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu