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World Academic Summit Innovation Index: Who attracts the most research cash?

Who has the most publications? Who is the most international? What course is the most popular? Which is the best city to study in? Where is the best higher education system? To answer these questions and many more, international rankings, studies and indices have all but multiplied over recent years (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, June 2013). This month, the already crowded arena welcomes a new entrant: the World Academic Summit Innovation Index. And the question this newcomer wishes to answer is: who attracts the most research cash? Compiled by Times Higher Education in view of its inaugural World Academic Summit to be held in October, the World Academic Summit Innovation Index ranks 30 countries according to what money big businesses annually invest in academics to carry out research and innovation work on their behalf. The results show that academics in South Korea attract the largest amounts of funding per capita in the world – on average USD 97 900 (EUR 73 000). Singapore comes in second, averaging USD 84 500 (EUR 63 000), followed by the Netherlands (USD 72 800), South Africa (USD 64 400) and Belgium (USD 63 700). Surprisingly, universities in traditional educational leading countries such as the US and the UK ranked among the least valuable to big businesses. With only USD 13 300 (EUR 9 900) invested in British academics, the UK barely makes it to the 26th position. Ireland, with USD 8 300 (EUR 6 200) per researcher, claims the very bottom of the barrel. Canada, the United States and Australia, respectively 13th, 14th and 15th, are also quite far from their usual top positions in international rankings. More than telling us who has the biggest research budget, this ranking highlights a deeper and underlying problem: the lack of cooperation between business and universities in most Western countries. The Asian powerhouses are proof that big businesses shift their attention eastwards to Asia, especially in the fields of technology innovation and computer science. This ‘threat from the East’ is not only apparent through the good positions of South Korea and Singapore, but also through Taiwan’s (6th), China’s (7th) and India’s (10th) good scoring. Reason for this success is the lack of research performance indicators in the index, which hamper many countries’ efforts to help their universities enter the world’s top 100 institutions (i.e. India and Russia). Nevertheless, voices have been raised revealing some serious flaws in this new index. Income from industry alone does not adequately measure the innovation contribution of a university, as other means such as patents and spin-offs also generate revenue. Moreover, universities with large faculties of humanities, for instance, are seriously disadvantaged as they cannot be expected to attract as much cash as universities that focus on science and technology. Another issue is the choice of institutions featured in the index, as in the case of South Korea and India only a handful of Korean universities (among them the Sungkyunkwan University, reacquired by Samsung in 1996) and very few Indian institutes of technology (out of over 500 universities in the country) were included in the analysis.   THE Wold Academic Summit Innovation Index