Special Report

The Most Innovative Universities In the World

U.S. inventions tend to be among the most successful commercially, worth $3 trillion, according to PatentVector, which devised a way to evaluate intellectual property.

“From cupholders to computers, mittens to mRNA vaccines, and scissors to spacecraft, the U.S. patent system continues to grant a disproportionate share of the most important and valuable patents in the world,” Andrew Torrance, chief executive of PatentVector, told Share America, part of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Global Public Affairs.

One of the main reasons for this dominance by the United States is the country’s robust higher education system and the resources they devote to research and development. For example, only two of the 25 most innovative universities in the world are located outside the U.S.

To determine the most innovative universities in the world, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from the report “Top 100 Worldwide Universities Granted U.S. Utility Patents,” published by Academy of Inventors. Universities were ranked by the number of U.S. patents granted in 2020. Additional data came from the National Center for Education Statistics or the universities’ websites.

The two universities located outside of the country are China’s Tsinghua University in Beijing, and Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in the eastern coastal city of Dhahran.

Utility patents are the most common type of patent, issued for the creation of new machines, processes, and manufactured products. In addition to physical devices, utility patents cover chemical compositions like the ones in pharmaceutical products and processes like the method used to securely pair wireless devices. (These are the 30 best college majors for a successful career.)

These 25 most innovative universities were granted 4,093 U.S. utility patents in 2020, led by the University of California’s statewide university system with 597 patents. The UC system is also the largest on this list with more than 294,000 students enrolled in the 2020-21 academic year. The smallest university on this list based on enrollment is the California Institute of Technology, with just 2,240 students. It was granted 156 U.S. utility patents in 2020 and ranks eighth on the list. (Find out if these institutions are also among the universities spending the most on research.)

California is home to three of the most innovative universities, or university systems, followed by two each in Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Here are the most innovative universities in the world.

Click here to see our detailed methodology.

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