We are delighted to announce that the Weizmann Institute of Science has been ranked sixth in the world for innovation by the Nature Innovation Index, 2017.
The index considers the world’s top 200 research institutions, and the Weizmann Institute is the only one outside of the US to be ranked within the top 10. The Index ranks the institutions according to the impact academic research is having on innovation by examining how research articles are cited in third party patents.
The President of the Weizmann Institute, Professor Daniel Zajfman responds to the announcement:
What does it mean to be among the top ten academic institutions in Nature’s “innovation index”?
We all know that scientific research is a strong driver for change in society. We need only look at the last 100 years of history to see its impact: Life expectancy has doubled, we transverse the entire globe in less than a day, we carry permanent digital connections in our pockets - and that is just the start.
The eternal question is how the results of scientific research - often obtained in the “rarified air” of a scientific lab – move from there out to the world, where they can bring us new technologies, drugs, algorithms, or other tools for improving our life. The trajectory from lab to bedside, home or computer almost never takes a straight, well-paved road. It is rarely a single contribution, or even a single research program, that is responsible for a tangible change.
And the impact on our lives is hardly ever predictable: A scientist might start a research program with one idea in mind and develop a whole scientific program around that idea. The results of that program might be used dozens of years later to create a technology the scientist could never even have imagined. Working backward, (i.e. once the technology is “on the market”) it is easier to trace the paths (although, here too, not with absolute 20/20 vision). By tracking the sources of the scientific publications that are quoted in approved patents, we can get a “sense” (as not all patents are actually transformed into marketed technologies) of the scientific research that contributes to new technologies. In other words, we can discern something of the true impact of the basic science that drives today’s innovation.
This is exactly what the scientific journal Nature did, in their new “Index of Innovation, 2017”, which was published on August 9th: By using available bibliographic data, both from scientific publication databases (representing the scientific contribution), and patent databases (representing innovation), and linking them together by registering the citations of scientific papers in these patents, they could trace the sources of the scientific ideas behind the patents. The index only includes third-party patents (i.e., in our case, not counting Weizmann patents themselves), and is based on the existing publication records for the years 1980 - 2015.
This is a first time that such an analysis has been performed. The result of this exercise (called the Lens Influence Metric) ranks the Weizmann Institute of Science among the 10 top institutions worldwide (6th, to be exact), and the first outside of the US.
This is quite a remarkable achievement for the Weizmann Institute of Science. It is even more remarkable when we recall that research at the Institute is driven by the curiosity of our scientists, and that the Institute doesn’t work on the basis of a well-defined marketing, outcome-oriented or translational strategy.
The only real strategy we have is hiring the best scientists, providing them with the best possible infrastructure and safeguarding their freedom to think. Such “curiosity-driven research” is not impelled by the need to find a specific solution to a problem or to create a useful application (patent) in the short term. Could such research ultimately contribute to solutions and applications in an exceptional way? The new Nature Innovation Index seems to support what we have claimed for years: The path from basic research to innovative application is a complex one; and the best strategy is, in fact, to bet on excellent people, and not on a specific target. Or in other words: In order to connect ideas to benefit, you need to support (and follow) the (excellent) scientists.
Being named as one of the 10 top institutions in the world for our impact on innovation is an achievement that fits perfectly with the vision of our founder, Dr. Chaim Weizmann: “Science for the benefit of humanity.”
We owe this success to all those who have been leading, working in and with, and supporting this Institute for many decades: Scientists, students, employees, board members and supporters. We feel it is our duty to stick to our crucial strategy, even in the face of a world that increasingly demands quick and easy results. The path forward is complex, and often uncharted, but we are determined to continue clearing and creating it every day.
Thank you for your support.
Prof. Daniel Zajfman
President, Weizmann Institute of Science
Published: August 10, 2017
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