The Top 20 Most Innovative Chinese Universities

The Top 20 Most Innovative Chinese Universities

November 12, 2018

LexisNexis® PatentSight® published a ranking of China’s top 20 most innovative universities based on their patent assets. Analysts at LexisNexis have identified these top universities as sorted by the Patent Asset Index.

Ranking of global technological innovative strength and influence according to the Patent Asset Index


Among Chinese universities, Tsinghua University heads the ranking of global technological innovative strength and influence according to the Patent Asset Index. Taking into account not only the quantity but also the quality of active protected patents, the Patent Asset Index is an objective IP benchmarking measure for the innovative strength of an organization, a specific business area, or an entire technology field. The method has been developed and validated in scientific research and has been used for several years by leading companies in many industries. Numerous corporations trust the Patent Asset Index to illustrate the strength of their patent portfolios in annual shareholder reports and other stakeholder communications. It is also used by the European Commission to validate merger cases, such as that between Dow and DuPont in 2017.

Out of the top 20 universities, Tsinghua University is ranked highest with a Patent Asset Index of 21.776, followed by Zhejiang University (12.126) and South China University of Technology (9.916). Tsinghua University has a patent portfolio of 27.411 patent families active around the world. With more than ten percent of their Patent Asset Index belonging to patents assigned to the IPC group H04L 12, which covers technologies for electric communication. Other strong technology fields of Tsinghua University include carbon and carbon compounds, which are used in nanotechnology, and processes and apparatus for the manufacture of semiconductors, e.g. for the production of thermal interface material.

Top research areas of the top 20 most innovative Chinese universities by Patent Asset Index


For 8 out of the top 20 universities, the top IPC group is G06F 17, which covers digital computing and data processing. This IPC group also accounts for more than 4% of the total Patent Asset Index of the top 20 most innovative Chinese universities.

Innovation areas of top 20 Chinese universities


In terms of external research collaboration, Tsinghua University co-owns patents with a number of corporations and research institutes. In this, most of their co-owned patents are the result of their collaboration with the electronics manufacturer Foxconn. Tsinghua University also co-owns patents with other organizations, but the 1.405 active families co-owned with Foxconn have the highest Patent Asset Index (2.933) and thus account for more than ten percent of the university’s overall portfolio strength.

Share of patent families co-owned with industry-collaborators in total portfolio strength of China’s top 20 innovative universities by Patent Asset Index


One major technology field covered by the collaboration between Tsinghua University and Foxconn is carbon compounds (IPC: C01B 31) which, as mentioned above, is one of the university’s strongest technology fields.

Lastly, it is worth noting that most of the 20 top innovative Chinese universities co-own patents with the state-owned electric utility companies State Grid and China Southern Power. These patents cover various technologies related to power generation, such as circuit arrangements.

While most of the universities cooperate with various Asia-based industries, there is as yet little cooperation with Western industries. One exception is Shanghai Jiao Tong University, which co-owns a handful of patent families with General Motors – however, these patent families only account for 0,4% of the university’s portfolio strength (not shown).

Nevertheless, with its huge portfolio strength, Tsinghua University is ranked 65 within the top 100 strongest patent owners worldwide as of Patent Asset Index and thus higher than, e.g., Continental, Dell Technologies, or Amazon.

The Patent Asset Index

PatentSight® Patent Asset Index serves as measure of the overall strength of a patent portfolio. This is the sum of the Competitive Impact of the individual patent families contained in a portfolio. The Competitive Impact, in turn, derives from the citation-based Technology Relevance multiplied by the Market Coverage which measures patent protection around the globe using the potential economic value (GNI) of each country.


A key feature of PatentSight is ownership harmonization. Their team, including English, German, Chinese, Korean and Japanese speakers, is able to view original patent documents without having to rely on machine translations provided by patent offices. This process is key to accurate owner data as without this, multiple different owners have an identical translation in English. The harmonization procedure further includes corporate structure information to accurately include the IP of subsidiaries under their parent company, i.e., the ultimate owner.

Learn more about PatentSight and the Patent Asset Index.

Excellent data quality is the foundation of reliable analyses. Learn how PatentSight enhances patent data here.   

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