Top Universities for Entrepreneurship and Innovation: Rising Competition for US and UK

By May 14, 2013

The top universities in the United States and United Kingdom still dominate the world in terms of entrepreneurial quality and capacity for innovation. However, the competition is starting to assert itself.

The US and the UK remain at the top of the list of countries with the greatest number of universities contributing to the creation of the most successful entrepreneurial ecosystems worldwide. This is the assessment made by the Technology Innovation Ecosystem Benchmarking Study conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in collaboration with the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech), a private graduate research university based in Skolkovo, a suburb of Moscow, Russia, which was founded in 2011 in collaboration with MIT. This report is the first part of a three-phase study focusing on the question of which institutes of higher learning have the best “university-based technology innovation ecosystems”. While US and UK universities remain at the top of the list, new arrivals in the rankings, notably Israeli university Technion, seem to portend changes in this competitive environment.

Supportive environments and challenging environments

Drawing on interviews with 61 experts from 20 countries, the report identifies 120 universities which have demonstrated a decisive impact and made a significant contribution in the field of entrepreneurship and innovation (E&I) at international level. US universities MIT and the University of Stanford head the rankings, with two British universities – the University of Cambridge and Imperial College, London – hard on their heels. However, two tertiary education establishments located outside the United States and Europe now appear in the top ten: Israel’s Technion, which comes sixth on the list; and the National University of Singapore (NUS) in tenth place. Moreover, Israel is the most frequently cited country in response to the question: “Which universities would you identify as having created/supported highly effective technology innovation ecosystems despite a challenging environment?” The challenging environments in which the universities are operating are typically characterised as cultures that do not support entrepreneurship and innovation, are isolated geographically, or suffer from a lack of venture capital. France appears in sixth place on this ‘challenged’ list.

Key ingredients for an ‘E&I’ star

The report also seeks to highlight the key factors that underpin the success of a university-based technology innovation ecosystem. One of the “essential” ingredients is considered to be an “institutional E&I culture”. Among the other decisive factors are: university research capability; a powerful student-led entrepreneurship drive; and local or regional quality of life. Following this first report in a wider three-phase study carried out by MIT, the second phase will set out to provide a detailed assessment of a selected sub-set of the universities identified in phase 1. The report states that in this Phase 2, “the focus will be on institutions that (…) appear to have played a pivotal role in the success of their ecosystem”.

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