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How a technical university is using research analytics to plan for international success

Source: Elsevier Connect, February 15, 2018

Propelling a research institution from a technical college to an internationally renowned university of technology is no simple task. And it's not one that happens by accident.

The National Taipei University of Technology (Taipei Tech) has always been one of Taiwan’s most important schools for developing technical experts, and it has grown in reputation and size in the 100 years since it was founded. Now, the university is using analytical tools – including Elsevier’s Scopus and SciVal – to identify opportunities and tactics as it drives for greater international recognition.

Collaborating with industry

The university is highly focused on research with a practical application, as its president, Prof. Sea-Fue Wang, explained: “Our goal is to commercialize our research results and turn them into actual products that can be sold to benefit people, in collaboration with industry.”

To do that, the university integrates its teachers’ research and development (R&D) activities into seven core research areas, including Ecology and Design Technology; Intelligent Electric Vehicle Technology; Internet of Things and Cloud Technology; and Sensor Technology. This approach enables the university to meet the mid-term and long-term needs of industry.

Various programs that integrate university activities with industry also increase the opportunity for collaborations with specific companies, the transfer of patent technology, and the commercialization of R&D products. For example, faculty members are collaborating with the Massachussetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to build the first City Lab in Taiwan, aimed at developing smart city infrastructure and autonomous vehicles.

As Taipei Tech continues to develop, the aim is for it to become an internationally renowned university and a leading, international applied research university. To track its progress and understand areas of strength and areas for development, the university used SciVal to benchmark itself against four other international universities – MIT, the Tokyo University of Technology, Aalto university in Finland and Tel Aviv University in Israel. The results painted a clearer picture of where Taipei Tech was on its journey.

As Prof. Ho-Chiao Chuang, Dean of International Affairs, explained: What we saw when we looked at the statistics on academic papers from the SciVal database was that papers published by (Taipei Tech) can compete with those published by internationally renowned universities in terms of the quality. Compared with the four benchmark universities … the university lags far behind the four benchmark universities in the number of papers in the Top 10 Journal Percentiles — yet most of the papers (30 percent) were published in the top 10 percent of journals in various fields. That indicates that the university is closer to the three benchmark universities other than MIT in terms of the distribution of publications and strength. That data helped the university understand where to take action.

 “The academic-corporate collaboration is an important indicator of the technical research in the university,” said Prof. Chao-chin Su, Dean of Research and Development. “So far, the number of academic-corporate collaborations is relatively low since our papers are often sought after by the industry for technology transfer.”

When a university has a new idea or invents a new technology, it often sells the technology to corporations in order to obtain premiums because they have no capacity to mass produce this technology. In addition, the researchers who invented the technology may write a paper about it, but if they don’t co-author the paper with industry colleagues, it doesn’t register as industry collaboration. Also, many papers are co-authored with the Industrial Technology Research Institute, and industry research institutes are also not counted as academic-corporate collaborations.

To deepen practical cooperation with industry, the university is planning Advanced R&D People Development Laboratories, such as the Chicony-Taipei Tech Research Center (CTRC), established by Taipei Tech and Chicony Group. Taipei Tech provides an appropriate venue to function as the laboratory for CTRC, while Chicony Group donates money to Taipei Tech for the center’s research expenses, including the establishment of the venue and environment, R&D equipment, materials and staff recruitment. With the guidance of experts from the industry, students can address the key problems in the industry, learn the industry approach more effectively, be inspired by innovative ideas, establish connections with the industry and commercialize the research results. This way, R&D staff in the industry serve as mentors to the students, and the university’s resources can be fully utilized and shared with the industry.

The center aims to integrate the abundant research capability of Taipei Tech and the research resources of Chicony Group to create an excellent environment for basic research, establish a talent development mechanism, perform original research that can lead to technology breakthroughs in basic science and as well as key technology, and effectively develop talent and enhance research strengths, all while improving the university’s academic impact and industrial competitive edge.

Using data and analytics to boost rankings and collaboration

What’s more, SciVal data revealed the impact of key decisions the university had made in its structure and helped NTUT set its goals for the next decade, Prof. Su said.

“In 2014, NTUT barely made the QS rankings in professional fields, because it had only been formally equipped with advanced researcher-like master and PhD. programs and above during the last decade,” he said. “Those changes came about after being transformed from an institute of technology to a technical college and then promoted to a university of technology.”

However, the data showed that a breakthrough took place after 2015. Prof. Ho-Chiao Chuang said the most representative examples are the shift in the worldwide ranking to the top 200 in Mechanical, Aeronautical & Manufacturing Engineering; the ranking in Electrical & Electronic Engineering field remaining between 201-250; the ranking in Computer Science & Information Systems going up from top 400 to top 350, and the ranking in the Engineering and Technology field moving up from 371 to 262. “From there, the university was able to set new goals for success,” he said. “We hope to be ranked as one of the top 100 in the above fields where we have competitive edge in the next five years. In addition, we hope to be listed in the world rankings (top 400) in at least 10 professional fields.”

In addition to benchmarking and tracking progress, Taipei Tech will use SciVal to increase the international collaborations that are vitally important for development.

“We hope to find outstanding researchers from around the world in related fields through Scival, so that we can establish inter-school alliances and set up research centers for co-publishing,” said President Wang. He said they have already created an inter-school research partnership program with four Taiwanese schools including Taipei Medical University; 10 overseas schools including as Western Sydney University and four schools in the New Southbound Policy, including as KMUTT; and four research institutes, including such as Taiwan’s Chang Gung Memorial Hospital.

That drive for collaboration is partly driven by the New Southbound Policy of the new government. Research partnerships between schools, countries and institutes have been promoted to boost academic exchange and cooperation at home and abroad to increase the number of students to work or start a business overseas. The policy calls for the development of comprehensive regional partnerships within Southeast Asian Nations, South Asia, Australia and New Zealand. It consists of 18 countries promoting regional exchanges and collaborations. It aims to build a new model of economic development for Taiwan, and aims to reposition the country as an important player in Asia’s growth.

As part of this intiative to foster partnerships and knowledge sharing, Taipei Tech will continue to use SciVal and Scopus to track its progress towards its goals, strengthen its international collaborations and deepen its partnerships in industry.

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