Judging by the relatively strong bond with the business community, the Eindhoven University of Technology is among the world’s top in innovation and entrepreneurship. In fact, according to Robert Tijssen, professor in Science and Innovation Studies at the Leiden University, who examined 750 universities world wide, the TU/e is the undisputed number one in the world. Most important indicator is the number of scientists who not only work for the university but also in business. TU/e’s high score is, according to Tijssen, partly due to the proximity of Philips Research.
With his research, which he conducted with Alfredo Yegros, Tijssen wants to start a discussion on how universities are rated as innovative or entrepreneurial. “There really are no generally accepted criteria or standards. My research is specifically designed to provide greater clarity and to stimulate a debate about this.”
Thijssen calculated that 6.2% of the scientists at the TU/e are “industry-oriented”, as evidenced by their employment at both the university as well as at a commercial company. By comparison, the top three in Thomson Reuter’s Top 100 Innovative Universities (Stanford, MIT and Harvard), get scores of 1.3%, 1.3% and 0.6% in Tijssen’s index. “These are relatively low shares of publications. So, perhaps it’s not about quantity of such researchers at each university, but rather about the research commercialisation qualities of individuals.” In Tijssen’s list MIT comes at place 11, Stanford at 25 and Harvard at 39.
Tijssen also indicates that in determining the innovative ability of an institute, there’s more to it than just the relationship to business. “It is not really clear what exactly should be the goal to work towards. That depends on the circumstances in which a university finds itself – especially in terms of resources – and the long-term innovation-oriented objectives that it pursues”
Indeed, ‘innovation’ encompasses much more than just industry orientation, says Tijssen. “Especially when you stretch the concept of innovation to doing fundamental research.” Yet Tijssen calls the 6.2% score by the TU/e “indicative for a research-intensive university that maintains close links with the R&D-active business”.