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Cherry blossoms in full bloom at the University of Washington. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper)

For the third year in a row, the University of Washington has won the title of the world’s most innovative public university, according to an annual ranking by Reuters and Clarivate Analytics. The institution also ranked No. 5 among all universities, public and private, with Stanford taking the top spot.

The list considered factors including patent filings and research paper citations to determine which educational institutions did the most to “advance science, invent new technologies and power new markets and industries.” The U.S. dominated the list overall, with 46 of the top 100 institutions.

Here are the top 10 most innovative public and private universities:

  1. Stanford University (USA)
  2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA)
  3. Harvard University (USA)
  4. University of Pennsylvania (USA)
  5. University of Washington (USA)
  6. University of North Carolina Chapel Hill (USA)
  7. KU Leuven (Belgium)
  8. University of Southern California (USA)
  9. Cornell University (USA)
  10. Imperial College London (UK)

UW filed a total of 561 patents between 2012 and 2017, a third of which were granted. It also received a high score for commercial research and development, which is measured by academic papers cited in patent filings. The institution is home to nearly 58,000 students and 7,000 staff, with campuses in Seattle, Tacoma and Bothell.

Over the past decade, UW has consistently brought in more than 2 percent of federal research funding, more than any other public university. In 2017, the university’s grant and contract award funding reached a peak of $1.6 billion.

In its ranking, Reuters noted a recent project in which UW and UCLA researchers created an artificial intelligence system that can diagnose breast cancer, in some cases better than trained physicians.

The success of Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft — and co-founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen — has had a huge impact on the university’s success through philanthropic donations that helped to establish the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and the Bill and Melinda Gates Center, which opened earlier this year thanks to contributions from individuals and local tech companies such as Microsoft, Amazon, Zillow, and Google, which has a large engineering presence in the region.

Other regional business magnates have been influential as well. Earlier this month, the school announced plans for a center focused on brain disorders, made possible thanks to a $50 million gift from Lynn and Mike Garvey, owners of transportation and distribution company Saltchuk.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Center opened this year, helping increase capacity for the UW’s top computer science school. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper)

The university, which ranked No. 10 on a separate list for best global universities, is also a primary reason why researchers from the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2) think Seattle will see “unprecedented acceleration in high-tech startup creation” in the coming years.

“More than 20 companies have been founded by Allen School faculty in recent years in areas as diverse as machine learning, m-health, backscatter communication, wireless power, computer security, educational technology, and surgical imaging — and many more companies have been founded by alums,” wrote AI2 researchers Jacob Colker and Oren Etzioni.

The most recent example of this trend is OctoML, a UW spinout that recently raised $3.9 million for a platform that acts as an operating system for machine learning models.

The UW is also home to CoMotion, the university’s startup incubator and collaborative innovation hub, and in 2016 debuted GIX, a U.S.-China joint technology institute that launched in partnership with China’s Tsinghua University and Microsoft.

Read the study’s full methodology here.

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