Five Swiss institutions have made it into the Reuters ranking of Europe’s most innovative universities. The higher education community has hailed the news, saying Swiss universities’ openness and large networks promote creativity and excellence.
Switzerland’s two federal institutes of technology made it into the top ten of the Reuters ranking, which “identifies and thanks the educational institutions doing the most to advance science, invent new technologies and power new markets and industries”.
The Federal Institute of Technology Lausanneexternal link (EPFL) was ranked fourth (up one place on 2017) and the Federal Institute of Technology Zurichexternal link (ETH Zurich) came in tenth (also up one place), Reuters said on Wednesday.external link The other three Swiss institutions were in the top 100.
Top spot was taken by KU Leuven, a Dutch-speaking school based in Belgium’s Flanders region, for the third time in a row.
But even if the ‘usual suspects’ dominated the most innovative rankings, political uncertainty may be causing a big swing in where innovation is happening, Reuters observed. Looked at by country, the 23 German universities on the 2018 list rose a cumulative 23 spots – more than any other country. Switzerland was second in this respect, with five universities moving up a total of eight spots.
By contrast, the list’s 21 United Kingdom universities dropped a cumulative 35 spots.
Reuters said that the country’s impending withdrawal from the European Union – in almost a year from now – was already having an effect, with some of the scientific community possibly already leaving the UK for continental institutions. Germany’s rankings had been boosted by the government’s pro-science stance.
Smaller countries can also do very well in innovation: Belgium has more top 100 innovative universities per capita than any other country in Europe, while Switzerland comes in second on this metric, Reuters added.
Martina Weiss, Secretary General of the umbrella organization swissuniversitiesexternal link, said it was always pleasing when the efforts of Swiss higher education institutes were recognised.
“They [Swiss universities] are a key factor for innovation in society and in the economy,” she told swissinfo.ch via email. “The fact that the Swiss education and research area is well-connected and open promotes creativity and excellence.”
For its part, the EPFL commented: "We are happy to see that our efforts towards innovation – one of the three missions of the School, with education and research – are recognised on international standards," said its president Martin Vetterli. "The overall performance of Swiss universities in that ranking is very positive for a small country such as ours."
The two top-ranked Swiss federal institutes are no stranger to doing well in international rankings.
In February it was also estimated that EPFL and ETH Zurich accounted for some 100,000 jobs and CHF13 billion ($13.2 billion) in added value to the economy.