GUV reveals its top 25 TTOs in the world and examines what happens when rankings are combined.

According to the World List of Universities and Other Institutions of Higher Education, there are more than 16,000 institutions worldwide. When research was conducted prior to the launch of Global University Venturing, there was a need to identify the universities that we needed to tap into first for news and data.

We decided the best way to get an overview on the top players in the university world was to combine three of the major rankings – Times Higher Education, Quacquarelli Symonds, and the Academic Ranking of World Universities. We took the information from this combined ranking as one of the main sets of data for the magazine, and from that list Global University Venturing has grown.

That was in 2012. This year, we decided to do the same, but to open up the ranking information to our readers, and the top 100 universities in the world by combined ranking can be found with this report. However, it quickly became apparent when checking the methodology of each ranking that the lists are generally blind to a university’s ability to innovate and its efforts in terms of technology transfer.

For the Quacquarelli Symonds rankings, 40% of a university’s overall score comes from academic reputation. Academics are asked where the best research in their field is being conducted, and the ranking is weighted hugely towards a subjective standpoint. It is further broken down by employer reputation (10%), student-to-faculty ratio (20%), international faculty ratio (5%), and international student ratio (5%). Only 20%, citations per faculty, considers the research output of an institution, which fails to recognise the ability of a university to turn an idea into reality.

Academic Ranking of World Universities ranks higher in this regard, with 40% of the overall ranking weighted towards research output. And yet that 40% still looks at only the publishing of academic papers, not the eventual impact. Quality of education and faculty takes up a further 50%, with the main indicators being citations, Nobel prizes and Fields medals. The final 10% focuses on per capita academic performance.

Only Times Higher Education allocates for the impact for innovation and technology transfer, at 2.5% of an overall score. Teaching, citations, research volume, income and reputation all take a 30% chunk each, while the remaining 7.5% examines international outlook.

In an attempt to begin to rectify this, Global University Venturing has taken a look at some of the top universities according to our combined ranking, and assessed their technology transfer efforts by the metrics of revenues generated, inventions disclosed, patents issued, spin-outs created and licensing deals done.

However, the rankings are far from conclusive. Many issues begin to arise when assessing technology transfer. For a start, many tech transfer offices (TTOs) remain hard to contact or make it difficult to acquire statistics. Only a handful provide useful data online or produce an annual report, something that seems counterintuitive for units that, by the nature of their mission briefs, will have to go beyond their own campuses and interact with the outside world.

There are many reasons why this might be so. Perhaps the TTO lacks the financial capacity or inclination to consider its wider marketing strategy. Inter-university competitiveness could hamper how a TTO reports its facts, with a lack of enthusiasm for being shown up by peers. Regional approaches also affect how open a TTO is, with the US, UK or Australian approach to extending reach markedly different to some of their European or Asian counterparts.

There is also a sense that some TTOs may be reluctant to share statistics. Indeed, if 84% of US universities are operating their tech transfer programmes in the red, then such hesitance may well be understandable.

Another consideration is the expertise of staff in building the bridge between academia and industry, and smaller TTOs lack the human resources to conduct their activities effectively, lending support to the idea that critical mass, be it through a larger research budget or inter-university cooperation on the tech transfer level, is key to overall success.

For whatever reason, many TTOs shy away from sharing their stories and statistics. To counteract this behaviour, a debate needs to be held on how innovation stemming from universities is ranked. Is it, as the major rankings suggest, purely a factor of how much prestige papers can pull in? And can the success of technology transfer be distilled into a handful of statistics such as revenues and patents filed, or does that merely tip the balance in favour of bigger universities while creating a culture obsessed with creating an office with the biggest stack of patents and deals?

With that in mind, it should be considered that this year’s inaugural rankings are preliminary – a review of what is to come should that debate not be held. An alternative would be to look at the wider innovation offering from a university, rather than the metrics being simply a check-list of easily tallied output. In some parts of the world, spin-outs are dwindling while student startups soar, underlining the need to factor in startup rate, incubator support and survival rates for both startups and spin-outs. Another point to consider is a university’s research budget, how much research it produces and at what quality, and how much of that goes on to have a direct impact through knowledge or technology transfer. From a financial viewpoint, what does a university’s activities have on the local economy, and how much does a country’s university system add to its whole economic output? What funding is available by way of grants, seed funds and university venture funds, and what does the angel and venture capital support for a university look like in comparison with others?

Then purely on a tech transfer level, current metrics should still have a place, but other activities need to be considered. How does a TTO’s academic-industry relations look in comparison with others and, in turn, what support and training does it offer its academics on where their papers may go once published, and how do the academics rate a TTO’s performance? Does a TTO market itself effectively internally and externally? Does it co-operate with other universities to achieve its mission of converting taxpayer-funded research into the wider market? What are the failure rates of inventions and patent applications, and what steps does a TTO take to feed that information back into a university’s research ecosystem and help shape future research outlook?

When these questions, and others like them, begin to be answered, a ranking goes beyond simply asking who has the biggest numbers. It creates a pretext for a discussion of what is important to university innovation that both academics and industry can feed into. It shares a set of common values and best practice for tech transfer to strive towards, and allows those with smaller yet more effective operations to shine alongside their larger contemporaries. Crucially, it helps formulate a vision of how to stimulate innovation that all universities can work towards.

Global University Venturing TTO Rankings

GUV RankUniversityTTO
1Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)Technology Licensing Office
2University of PennsylvaniaPenn Centre for Innovation
3Cornell UniversityCentre for Technology Enterprise and Commercialisations
4Columbia UniversityColumbia Technology Ventures
5University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)Office of Intellectual Property & Industry Research Alliances 
6Johns Hopkins UniversityTechnology Transfer
7Stanford UniversityOffice of Technology Licensing
8Washington UniversityCentre for Commercialisation
9University of California, San DiegoOffice of Intellectual Property & Industry Research Alliances 
9Oxford UniversityIsis Innovation
11Northwestern UniversityInnovation and New Ventures Office
11Cambridge UniversityCambridge Enterprise
13California Institute of Technology (Caltech)Caltech Office of Technology Transfer
13Michigan UniversityOffice of Tech Transfer
15Harvard UniversityOffice of Technology Development
16New York University (NYU)Office of Industrial Liason
17Imperial College LondonImperial Innovations
17Edinburgh UniversityEdinburgh Research and Innovation
19University of Illinois at Urbana ChampaignOffice of Technology Management
20Chicago UniversityUChicagoTech
21Toronto UniversityResearch and Innovation
22University of California, BerkeleyOffice of Intellectual Property & Industry Research Alliances 
22University College London (UCL)UCL Enterprise
24University of British ColumbiaUniversity-Industry Liaison Office
25Princeton UniversityOffice of Technology Licensing

Full data on metrics used can be found inside this month’s GUV magazine.


Notes on Global University Venturing rankings

The rankings were calculated by:

• Taking from the combined ranking the top 25 universities for which we could obtain statistics.

• Ranking each institution by individual metrics from 1 to 25. For any institution that could not provide a statistic in a certain category – for example, Stanford outsources its patenting activities while Imperial Innovations does not provide revenues made specifically from technology transfer activity with its financial data – universities were ranked or jointly ranked in last place for that category.

• An average of scores in each category was calculated and used to award a ranking position.

The 25 universities that made the final table were not necessarily in the top 25 of the combined world rankings.

The reason for this is that some of the universities in the top 25 – for example, Karolinska, Yale and Tokyo – neither provide statistics online nor responded to our requests for information.


Combined World Rankings

1Harvard University212
2Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)531
3Stanford University427
4Cambridge University753
5Oxford University296
6California Institute of Technology (Caltech)1710
7Princeton University6610
8Chicago University999
9Yale University11118
10Columbia University13814
11University of California, Berkeley8425
11Imperial College London10225
13ETH Zürich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zürich141912
13University of Pennsylvania161613
13University College London (UCL)21204
16Cornell University191315
17Johns Hopkins University151716
18Toronto University202417
19Michigan University182222
20University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)121240
21Duke University173123
22The University of Tokyo232132
23Northwestern University222829
24Wisconsin-Madison University302437
24Karolinska Institute364510
26Washington University251559
27Edinburgh University394517
28Melbourne University344431
29New York University (NYU)402744
30University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign292856
30Kyoto University522635
32King’s College London385919
33British Columbia University313749
34University of California, San Diego401463
35McGill University356721
36University of Manchester583833
37University of Texas at Austin273971
38University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill473654
39Carnegie Mellon University246257
40Australian National University487427
41National University of Singapore (NUS)2610124
42École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne379619
43Washington University in St Louis423286
44Heidelberg University684950
45Munich University554965
46University of Bristol796330
47Brown University527447
48University of Minnesota4630102
49Seoul National University4410135
50Queensland University638543
51Peking University4510146
52University of California, Davis525585
53Boston University507079
54Tsinghua University5010148
55London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)3210168
56University of California, Santa Barbara3341130
57Sydney University7210138
58Utrecht University745781
59Pennsylvania State University4958107
60Leiden University677774
61Hong Kong University4315126
62Purdue University626099
63Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech)289999
64University of California, Santa Cruz13893 
65The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas18845 
66KU Leuven619677
67Copenhagen University1503945
68Ohio State University5964113
69Amsterdam University8310058
70Helsinki University1007369
71Pierre et Marie Curie University9635112
72University of Southern California7051125
73Pittsburgh University7865106
74Uppsala University1116079
75Zurich University1215678
76Monash University9110169
77Geneva University1246671
78Maryland University10843116
79New South Wales University11410152
80Nanyang Technological University7615141
81Glasgow University11710151
82Basel University7490110
83Ghent University8570122
84Groningen University988297
85Osaka University1447855
86Rice University6582136
87Sheffield University11210171
88University of California, Irvine9347149
89École Normale Supérieure6567158
90Colorado Boulder University9734160
91Lund University12310167
92Hong Kong University of Science and Technology5720134
93Göttingen University63101128
94Free University of Berlin86*109
95Chinese University of Hong Kong10915139
96Aarhus University1387491
97Alberta University10910196
98Erasmus University Rotterdam7315192
99Birmingham University15310162
100Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)5620160

* Because of an unresolved dispute over the Nobel laureates before the Second World War (both Humboldt and Freie Universität claim to be the rightful successor of the University of Berlin), they do not appear in the ARWU rankings anymore.