Governments are eager to demonstrate that publicly funded science is being used to create products or services that benefit society. It is difficult, however, to precisely measure the influence of science on innovation. One indicator of the connection between science and technology worth considering, but often overlooked, are the references in patents to literature. At best, these citations infer that published science may have influenced or inspired the invention. The Lens.org is an open database that links more than 100 million patent documents to more than a million scholarly articles via patent citations. A subset of data from the Lens has measured patent citations for 200 institutions, creating a Normalized Lens Influence Metric (Lens metric) that demonstrates the influence an institution's articles published between 1980–2015 have had on patents. See full list of 200 institutions included in analysis on page S33, and details on the Lens metric, page S32. The analysis suggests there is some association between high-quality science and its influence on inventions. For an alternative perspective, we also look at a group of institutions that have extensive patent portfolios relative to their number of research articles, an indicator of the economic potential institutions place on their discoveries. See Patents vs citations.
Excellence and innovation
Of the 200 institutions included in the Lens analysis, the highest performing institutions in the Nature Index are included in the graph below. Those institutions with a high percentage of articles in journals included in the index, graphed on the y-axis, tend to have a higher Lens metric, a measure of an institutions’ influence on patents.
Of the journals featured in the Lens analysis, those included in the index are ranked by their average patent citation per article, where multidisciplinary journals perform better than most of the specialist journals. Journals’ portion of articles cited in patents are shown as percentages.
Some of the highest ranked institutions by Lens metric publish a high percentage of articles in journals included in the index, measured by normalized weighted fractional count (WFC/total natural science articles 2012-2016).
Patents vs citations
A high proportion of research by The Scripps Research Institute is cited by patents owned by others, giving the institution a high Lens metric. Whereas institutions such as France’s Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies Commission tend to patent a greater portion of their research, giving it a higher normalized WIPO patent families score (WIPO patent families/STEM articles 2016).
Data analysis Aaron Ballagh/Nature Index; Osmat Jefferson, Deniz Koellhofer and Adam Jaffe/Lens.org; Clarivate Analytics
Data analysis Aaron Ballagh/Nature index; Osmat Jefferson, Deniz Koellhofer and Adam Jaffe/Lens.org; clarivate analytics
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Charting influence. Nature 548, S6–S7 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/548S6a