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Political, business, and education leaders from Washington and China gathered earlier this month to celebrate the launch of the Global Innovation Exchange in Bellevue, Wash. (GeekWire photo / Taylor Soper)

The University of Washington was the top ranked American public university among the top 10 in Reuters’ annual list of the world’s most innovative universities.

For the third-straight year, Reuters ranked the top 100 most innovative universities based on 10 different metrics, including academic papers on research, patent filings and a university’s ability to transform its development and discoveries into real-world commercial impact. Reuters notes that the list “identifies and ranks the educational institutions doing the most to advance science, invent new technologies and power new markets and industries.”

The UW, which ranked No. 4 in Reuters’ inaugural list two years ago and No. 5 last year, fell to No. 7.

Stanford, MIT, and Harvard ranked in the top 3, respectively, for the third consecutive year. Nine of the top 10 schools last year once again cracked the top 10 list for 2017:

  1. Stanford University
  2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
  3. Harvard University
  4. University of Pennsylvania
  5. KU Leuven
  6. KAIST
  7. University of Washington
  8. University of Michigan System
  9. University of Texas System
  10. Vanderbilt University

Of the top 100, 51 universities are based in North America, 26 in Europe, 20 in Asia, and three in the Middle East.

Reuters noted a caveat with its rankings.

“Of course, the relative ranking of any university – or whether it appears on the list at all – does not provide a complete picture of whether its researchers are doing important, innovative work,” Reuters’ David Ewalt wrote. “Since the ranking measures innovation on an institutional level, it may overlook particularly innovative departments or programs: a university might rank low for overall innovation but still operate one of the world’s best theoretical physics departments, for instance. And it’s important to remember that whether a university ranks at the top or the bottom of the list, it’s still within the top 100 on the planet. All of these universities produce original research, create useful technology and stimulate the global economy.”

Stanford also ranked atop on Pitchbook’s recent list on the schools producing the most venture capital-backed entrepreneurs; the UW ranked 23rd on that list. However, career website Paysa released a report in June on the most influential universities in tech and the UW was No. 1.

For the UW, ranking again in the top 10 on Reuters’ list is another honor as the Seattle-based institution continues to encourage innovation across campus, which boasts one of the top computer science schools worldwide.

Here’s what Reuters had to say about the UW:

The University of Washington places seventh place overall on Reuters’ ranking of the World’s Most Innovative Universities, but is the highest-ranked American public university on the list. Materials science and engineering researchers at UW recently developed a new way to quickly and cheaply create supercapacitors, devices that can store and deliver energy faster than conventional batteries. The new supercapacitors use a low-density carbon material called aerogel, and have applications for use in a wide range of devices from electric cars to high-powered lasers. Elsewhere at the university, researchers have discovered that adding the chemical polydopamine — a substance extracted from mussels — to various medical tests at key steps increased test accuracy as much as 1,000 times. The discovery could lead to better tests for HIV, the Zika virus, and proteins related to cancerous tumors. UW says it receives more federal research dollars than any other public university in the nation — $995 million in 2016, or more than 72 percent of the university’s total of $1.37 billion in research awards. In fiscal 2016, UW’s collaborative innovation hub, CoMotion, launched a record 21 new startups based on its research technologies, including MediaAMP, which makes cloud-based media management tools. Over the past 10 years the CoMotion hub has incubated 126 startups.

Indeed, there is a lot of activity going on at CoMotion, the university’s collaborative innovation hub. CoMotion has grouped together three buildings into a newly-established “CoMotion Labs” that consists of its new headquarters in the University District, which houses the region’s only incubator focused on virtual and augmented reality startups; the CoMotion Incubator at Fluke Hall, which helps startups working on healthcare and biotech; and Startup Hall, where there is co-working space geared to software and IT startups, while also home to the Founder’s Co-op venture capital firm and Techstars Seattle.

Vikram Jandhyala is vice president for innovation strategy at the University of Washington, executive director of CoMotion (UW’s collaborative innovation hub) and co-executive director of the Global Innovation Exchange (GIX).

CoMotion originally started as the UW’s Center for Commercialization (C4C), which focused on helping commercialize ideas born at the university. Now, though, the focus is less on creating patents and more on creating impact, said CoMotion Executive Director Vikram Jandhyala, who shed light on that mindset shift on a recent GeekWire podcast episode.

“It’s not so much about holding on to the idea of the university and trying to make money, as opposed to, let’s find the best way to create impact,” he explained. “That might be a startup; it might be a license; or it might be just creating software which is open source. That’s the mindset we’ve created.”

Jandhyala said he and his colleagues across campus want to help make UW a place where entrepreneurs are celebrated.

“That’s probably the next part of our cultural shift, getting students thinking that if they want to be entrepreneurial, they choose UW,” he noted.

The UW also just opened the Global Innovation Exchange, a new U.S.-China graduate tech institute based in Bellevue, Wash. GIX brings together two leading academic institutions — the UW and Beijing-based Tsinghua University — and a founding corporate partner in Microsoft (which put $40 million toward the program) to help create a first-of-its-kind graduate school designed to train students in entrepreneurship and encourage new ideas around real-world challenges.

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