The richest countries in Europe tend to perform best in terms of their universities engaging with industry, data from Times Higher Education appear to show.
Plotting the median World University Rankings score on industry income for selected countries against GDP (gross domestic product) per person does suggest that the two indicators are related.
This could be due to the amount of money available in the economy to invest in higher education research or may even suggest that the wealth of a country is in part driven by how well universities and industry collaborate.
Switzerland comes top out of the selected countries with a median industry income score of 65.2 out of 100. At the same time, Switzerland had the highest GDP per capita in 2015 ($62,558), according to World Bank figures adjusted for purchasing power parity, which allows for differences in the cost of living across nations.
Its highest scoring university on industry income is the University of Basel at 99.3, which is among the world’s top 25 institutions for the proportion of a university's publications (4.4 per cent) that are collaborations with industry.
Germany and the Netherlands are close behind in terms of their universities’ performance for industry income, with median scores of 60 and 58 respectively. For GDP per capita, they sit in a bunch of second-tier countries in Europe that also includes Belgium, Denmark and Sweden.
The United Kingdom has relatively strong GDP per capita of $41,801 but lags behind Spain and Italy – which both have lower GDP per capita – on industry income despite its strong showing in the rankings overall (it is only behind the US in terms of the number of universities it has in the rankings).
Meanwhile, an outlier in the data is Ireland due to its very high GDP per capita figure of $68,514.
The country’s GDP per capita has sometimes been identified as being unusually high compared with other countries due to a number of multinational companies basing themselves there for tax reasons. It has led some economists to prefer using gross national income per capita (Ireland’s was $54,610) as a measure of wealth, as this only includes the value of goods produced by a country’s actual residents.