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Just Host Web Hosting
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Reuters Top 100: Europe's Most Innovative Universities – 2018
April 25, 2018 6:00 am|Comments (0)

For the third year running KU Leuven tops Reuters ranking of Europe’s most innovative universities, a list that identifies and ranks the educational institutions doing the most to advance science, invent new technologies and power new markets and industries. A Dutch-speaking school based in Belgium’s Flanders region KU Leuven was founded in 1425 by Pope Martin V and continually produces a high volume of influential inventions. Patents filed by KU scientists are frequently cited by other researchers in academia and in private industry. That’s one of the key criteria in Reuters’ ranking, which was compiled in partnership with Clarivate Analytics, and is based on proprietary data and analysis of patent filings and research paper citations.

1. The library of the university KU Leuven “Katholieke Universiteit Leuven” is pictured in Leuven, Belgium, June 8, 2016. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Overall, the most elite ranks of Europe’s Most Innovative Universities have held steady from last year, with the UK’s Imperial College London (#2) and University of Cambridge (#3) holding onto their top spots for the third straight year. Other leading institutions simply traded a few spaces, like the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne (#4, up one), University of Erlangen Nuremberg (#5, up one), and the Technical University of Munich (#6, down two). The remainder of the universities in the top 10 moved up from the teens: The University of Manchester (#7, up nine), University of Munich (#8, up four), Technical University of Denmark (#9, up five), and ETH Zurich (#10, up one).

But even though the usual suspects continue to dominate Europe’s Most Innovative Universities, political uncertainty may be causing a big swing in where innovation happens. The trend is most clear if you consider the sum of changes in rank for each country’s institutions: The 23 German universities on this year’s list cumulatively rose 23 spots, more than any other country. Switzerland was second, with five universities up a total of 8 spots. And in contrast, the list’s 21 UK-based universities dropped a cumulative 35 spots.

2. Students walk out of a faculty building of Imperial College London, Britain, May 27, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

Why is this shift occurring? The United Kingdom’s “Brexit” from the European Union is almost a year away, but Europe’s scientific community may already be leaving the UK in favor of research institutions on the continent. A February 2018 study published by the UK-based Centre for Global Higher Education reports that many German academics view Brexit as an “advantage,” and hope to use it to attract UK researchers to German universities; in turn, UK academics report that their own postdocs aren’t seeking positions in the UK and are looking at the EU or United States instead. And as Brexit actually unfolds, it could get worse: A November 2017 study performed by the School of International Futures for the UK’s Royal Society describes a possible post-secession United Kingdom where universities compete for a shrinking pool of skilled workers, projects that used to receive EU funding wither, researchers receive fewer invites to join consortia and attend conferences, and overseas collaboration is limited. Similarly, EU-based businesses that fund research at universities may prefer to keep their investments within the region in order to avoid the tax and regulatory headaches of working with post-Brexit UK institutions.

The government of Germany has also established itself as notably pro-science, increasing federal research budgets and encouraging growth in emerging industries such as renewable energy. (German Chancellor Angela Merkel actually holds a doctorate in quantum chemistry, and worked as a research scientist before she entered politics.) According to a 2017 analysis published in the science journal “Nature,” researchers are “flocking to the country,” in part due to the country’s €4.6-billion “Excellence Initiative,” which has helped to attract at least 4,000 foreign scientists to Germany since 2005. And in 2016, the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, or DFG), the country’s main funding agency, allocated a record €2.9 billion in grants, posting a success rate for individual grant proposals higher than comparable UK rates.

Slideshow (8 Images)

This year’s university ranking also shows how smaller countries can have an outsized presence in the world of innovation. Belgium has seven schools on the list, but with a population of only 11 million people, it can boast more top 100 innovative universities per capita than any other country in Europe. On the same per capita basis, the second most innovative country on the list is Switzerland, followed by Denmark, the Netherlands, and the Republic of Ireland. And some large countries underperform despite bigger populations and economies. Russia is Europe’s most populous country and boasts the region’s fifth largest economy, yet none of its universities count among the top 100.

To compile the ranking of Europe’s most innovative universities, Clarivate Analytics (formerly the Intellectual Property & Science business of Thomson Reuters) began by identifying more than 600 global organizations that published the most articles in academic journals, including educational institutions, nonprofit charities, and government-funded institutions. That list was reduced to institutions that filed at least 50 patents with the World Intellectual Property Organization in the period between 2011 and 2016. Then they evaluated each candidate on 10 different metrics, focusing on academic papers (which indicate basic research) and patent filings (which point to an institution’s ability to apply research and commercialize its discoveries). Finally, they trimmed the list so that it only included European universities, and then ranked them based on their performance.

Of course, the relative ranking of any university does not provide a complete picture of whether its researchers are doing important, innovative work. Since the ranking measures innovation on an institutional level, it may overlook particularly innovative departments or programs: a university might rank low for overall innovation but still operate one of the world’s most innovative oncology research centers, for instance. And it’s important to remember that whether a university ranks at the top or the bottom of the list, it’s still within the top 100 on the continent: All of these universities produce original research, create useful technology and stimulate the global economy.

To see the full methodology, click here.

(Editing by Arlyn Gajilan and Alessandra Rafferty)

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NYC Is Redesigning Its Slow, Old, and Unpopular Bus System
April 25, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

Like the Empire State Building observation deck and a Circle Line cruise ship, the view from the top of a double-decker bus in New York has long been reserved for tourists and maybe the occasional local cajoled into showing them around. The bus part, however, is about to change: Starting this spring, Staten Island commuters will begin boarding blue-and-yellow double-deckers that will whisk them from their outer borough homes to the heart of Manhattan’s business district.

Yes, New York City is getting a bus makeover, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced this week, complete with 10 electric buses, already testing in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. And if you can believe it, the addition of shiny new vehicles to the fleet isn’t the most exciting thing about it. The MTA is also giving the city’s bus system—all 325 routes and 16,350 stops, used by 2.4 million riders every weekday—a “top-to-bottom, holistic review and redesign,” its first in decades. By reexamining the entire bus system, the city has a chance to fix its routes, ease congestion, give better options to transit riders, and maybe even relieve the pressure on its strained subway network.

In terms of direness, this revamp is closer to an episode of Hoarders than your standard spring cleaning. Since 2009, New York City’s annual bus ridership has plunged by almost 11 percent, even as the city’s population booms and its overcrowded subway flirts with collapse. The pattern repeats itself all over the country. In the LA area, annual ridership is down 25 percent over the same period, as more cars plug up highways and side streets. Austin, Texas, Denver, Colorado, and Washington, DC—all with growing populations—each saw bus use drop in recent years.

The problem isn’t the bus itself. The success of bus networks in countries like Brazil, China, and Germany—where nearly 100-foot-long human-toters have their own lanes and traffic signals, and race through congestion at 25 mph—makes clear that people are down with the things, as long as they’re practical, efficient, and safe. In Manhattan, buses average 5.5 mph. Chances are you could jog at that pace.

Part of the problem is that New York’s bus system was designed around the city as it once was, with lines connecting to the streetcars, busy wharfs, and big businesses of the time. The city has changed, of course. The bus network, not so much. Take the three lines that terminate in Port Richmond, a Staten Island ferry terminal. Those were probably super convenient—until 1962, when ferries stopped using the port.

A recent series of radical bus redesign projects have shown that smarter routing and scheduling can make all the difference. In 2015, Houston cut low-frequency routes in favor of a high-frequency grid that operates 24/7, and improved connections to the city’s light-rail network. Transit ridership climbed 7 percent. Seattle, Portland, and Columbus, Ohio, have seen similar results from their own network rejiggerings.

New York’s plans are still a bit sketchy, timeline-wise, though transit advocates are heartened by the involvement of new New York City Transit Authority president Andy Byford, who stepped into his role in January after establishing himself as a get-‘er-done kind of transit official in Toronto. We do know, however, that the redesign effort will kick off in Staten Island, where new routes (announced last summer) will have their debut in August.

But how does one go about redoing an entire city’s bus network, and making it easier for residents to get around? First things first: gathering data, so you can fit routes and stops to current patterns of living, working, and commuting. Fortunately, most cities have access to a wealth of data about how people are moving around inside of them.

The census offers a good baseline. New York can also track MetroCard use to know how many people are getting on which buses. It has years of GPS data to help determine where their vehicles are most likely to get stuck in traffic. It even has some intel about where ride-hailing companies are picking up and dropping off passengers, offering a better sense of what’s happening on the roads.

There’s the good, old-fashioned, underrated human too. “Operators know which stops are the busiest and which are not, and the most successful agencies we’ve seen in redesigning their networks engage operators at the very beginning,” says Kirk Hovenkotter, who studies transit agencies at the New York-based research and advocacy group TransitCenter.

Even the public can be helpful. In Houston, conversations between the transit agency and various community groups began in 2013, almost two years before the city officially launched its new network. Just know that you won’t make everybody happy. “You’ll definitely get some grumbling,” says Jon Orcutt, who directs communications at TransitCenter. “It’s inherent in change.”

The goal is to get a fresh picture of where people are, and where they go, and make the buses match up. If this neighborhood suddenly has hundreds of thousands more people in it, time for a bus line. If this waterfront area has a new ferry, maybe build some connections to it.

With those inputs in hand, start craft routes that do cure the maladies that plague many a system. Today, many routes curve and swerve, trying to cover the entire map, and get riders as close to their destinations as possible. That sounds nice, but hurts efficiency—too many stops, too many turns—and leads to infrequent service.

Organizations like the National Association of City Transportation Officials have encouraged metros to make long bus routes less circuitous, valuing efficient grid service. Cities are also thinking about cutting down the number of bus stops. This is doubly attractive in places—like a lot of New York—where sidewalk infrastructure makes it easy for riders to walk an extra block or so for the bus. New York (and other cities) are thinking seriously about bus-only lanes, bus stops that don’t block traffic, and traffic signals that give public transit—and not private cars—the jump on green lights. It’s even going for all-door boarding, making it faster to get everybody aboard. When San Francisco’s transit agency did something similar, dwell times at bus stops dropped 13 percent.

Cap that off by sending the buses where the people are, and voila: a bus system that might actually work. Now, NYC just has to fix the dang subway.


Transportation Going Public

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Nvidia Uses AI to Reconstruct Damaged Images
April 24, 2018 6:12 pm|Comments (0)

Software maker Nvidia (NVDA) has introduced a new way to edit or reconstruct images using artificial intelligence.

The deep learning method uses a process the company calls “image inpainting.” It can reconstruct images that could be missing pixels and can remove unwanted content within a photo and replace it with a computer-generated alternative.

“Our model can robustly handle holes of any shape, size location, or distance from the image borders. Previous deep learning approaches have focused on rectangular regions located around the center of the image, and often rely on expensive post-processing,” the NVIDIA researchers stated in their research paper. “Further, our model gracefully handles holes of increasing size.

For example, when you use Nvidia’s technology on a blank space where there is supposed to be a nose, instead of filling the space with its surrounding, the software adds a computer-generated nose.

The company hasn’t offered a time for when this technology could be released, but they do see it someday being implemented into current photo-editing software.

Nvidia, founded in the 1990s, makes graphics chips that can be found in computers, video games, and even self-driving cars. The company has currently been dominating the AI scene and even made its debut in the Fortune 500 last year at #387. The cofounder and CEO, Jen-Hsun “Jensen” Huang was also Fortune’s Businessperson of the Year for 2017.

Watch the video from Nvidia about this state-of-the-art technique below.

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