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Which countries receive the most funding from big business?

World Academic Summit Innovation Index

According to a new study by Times Higher Education, major international study destinations have been outshone in terms of countries whose universities receive the most funding for research from major corporations.

The World Academic Summit Innovation Index was published today ahead of the World Academic Summit in Singapore at the start of October. There, the relationship between big business and academic innovation will be at the centre of the three day conference.

South Korea ranked first with just over $97,000 roughly invested per researcher, compared to popular study destinations for international students like the US ($25,000 approx.) or the UK ($13,000 approx.). Meanwhile, Singapore and the Netherlands came second and third respectively.

These findings are further indication of the lucrative opportunities available in growing study destinations like Asia. Only last month did scientists at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore demonstrate their most recent work, an ‘invisibility cloak’, by making a cat and a goldfish disappear from direct sight.

In the past, research and development by institutions which has been funded by big business, has led to numerous innovations with massive real world implications; these includes the bullet train, the MP3 file and even the internet!


We spoke to Phil Baty, editor of Times Higher Education, to get his thoughts on the results, and why the perception of being relevant to the real world is so important:


How important is it for universities to attract funding from businesses today? What are the benefits for universities/students/researchers themselves?

‘Working to transfer their ideas from the laboratory into the real world is known as the “third mission” of universities, after teaching and research; but in tough economic times, it should be absolutely core to a university’s activities and indeed, key to its future success. Universities have to diversify their incomes in the face (at least in the West) of tighter public spending, and part of that means persuading business that they are worthy of their investment and persuading governments and taxpayers that they are key to the future economic success of nations.

So this is a crucial factor in helping institutions stay competitive – but it is also a very important aspect for students. Students, who in many cases are making huge investments in their degree courses, often want to be confident that the university they attend are properly tuned into the real world, and have strong, up-to-date links with businesses. This can be very important for graduate employability.’


What do universities and their researchers bring to the table when it comes to research and innovation on behalf of large companies?

‘Universities are often the source of the next big idea, or the key to helping to create world class products, through constant innovation and research. They deserve big business backing, and will usually re-pay the investment many times over.’


What kind of impact do you think the worldwide recession has had on companies’ ability to fund university research?

‘Clearly companies in general have less money to invest in research, and are more risk averse, but investing in universities should be seen as a relatively safe bet: companies must constantly innovate and improve to survive, and the knowledge and ideas within our leading universities is extremely valuable.’


You said that working with business and industry to move ideas into the real world has become one of the most important functions of a modern university. Do you think these kinds of funding opportunities and relationships help universities to attract students from abroad?

‘“Innovation” is one of the key aspects examined in creating the annual Times Higher Education World University Rankings, so we believe it is an essential element of a university’s overall success. From the consumer’s point of view, universities will want to demonstrate that they are not just ivory towers, aloof and ignorant of the real world. Most students want real-world education, taught by the brightest academics minds, but in an environment where it relates to their real lives, and their future employment prospects. So students will regularly refer to indicators that capture a university’s business links and role in the innovation and knowledge economy.’


For more information about the Summit this October, you can visit the World Academic Summit website.