While university rankings are nothing new – assessments of everything from employment prospects to student satisfaction spawn new charts with regularity – never before have universities been assessed and compared on their ability to innovate.

A new list, compiled by Reuters, identifies the 100 educational institutions that are doing the most to advance science, develop new technologies and boost global economic growth.

The 10 most innovative universities in Europe
Image: Reuters

Ancient and modern

The most dynamic and innovative university in Europe? KU Leuven, the Belgian college set up in 1425 by the Pope, in this case Martin V.

The world’s oldest Catholic university earns its first-place rank partly because of the high number of influential inventions it has pioneered. Its researchers submit more patents than almost any other university in Europe.

The benefits of getting technical

Some of the highest-rated universities on the list came into existence when larger institutions separated off their technical departments. Imperial College London, ranked second, was formerly the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, part of the University of London. ICL now outperforms the University of London, which is ranked at number 30 in the European top 100.

Similarly, Switzerland’s Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne took its current form in 1968, when it was taken out of the University of Lausanne.

The most innovative countries

With just under one-quarter of the universities in the top 100 list based in Germany, the country convincingly leads the way. The United Kingdom comes in second with 17 institutions on the list, including the University of Cambridge, ranked third, and the University of Oxford, ranked eighth.

The Republic of Ireland only has three colleges on the entire list, but with a population of under 5 million people, it can boast more top 100 innovative universities per capita than any other country in Europe.

The innovation among Europe’s universities is, to some extent, reflected in the broader national pictures. The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2015-16 found Switzerland to be the most innovative country in the world, while Germany ranked number six.

These are the most innovative countries in the world
Image: World Economic Forum

Despite its strong showing in the innovative universities list, the UK did not feature in the report's 10 most innovative countries list.

The innovative universities list was compiled using 10 different metrics, including academic papers, which indicate basic research and patent filings.

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