Switzerland is most innovative, India making gains, according to index

Switzerland is the world’s most innovative country, followed by Sweden, the United States, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, according to the 2019 edition of the Global Innovation Index (GII), released July 24.

The index also identified regional leaders: India, South Africa, Chile, Israel and Singapore, while China, Vietnam and Rwanda topped their respective income groups.

Now in its 12th year, the ranking is a benchmarking tool for business executives, policymakers and others seeking insight into the state of innovation around the world. It is co-published by the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business; INSEAD, a graduate business school based in Europe; and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

“While the Global Innovation Index ranks economies according to their innovation capacity and performance, it also provides valuable insights into the dynamics of global innovation,” said Soumitra Dutta, professor of operations, technology and information management at Cornell’s Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, and founding editor of the index. 

“It highlights economies that excel in innovation and those that are more successful in translating investments in innovation inputs into innovation outputs,” Dutta said. “Lessons from these innovation leaders provide useful guidance on innovation policy for others.”

India maintained its top place in the Central and Southern Asia region as the 52nd overall ranked economy this year. From No. 81 in 2015, India’s 29-place move up the index represents the biggest jump by any major economy. Thanks to its high-quality scientific publications and universities, India remains No. 2 among middle-income economies in innovation, the report said.

This year, the index included a special theme: Creating Healthy Lives – the Future of Medical Innovation. It analyzed the medical innovation landscape of the next decade, looking at how technological and nontechnological medical innovation will transform the delivery of health care worldwide.

The 2019 index ranks 129 economies based on 80 indicators – from traditional measurements like research-and-development (R&D) investments and international patent and trademark applications to newer indicators such as mobile app creation and high-tech exports.

The 2019 index also looks at economic context. Despite signs of slowing economic growth, innovation continues to blossom, particularly in Asia, but pressures are looming from trade disruptions and protectionism. Sound government planning for innovation is critical for success, the report said.

“The GII shows us that countries that prioritize innovation in their policies have seen significant increases in their rankings,” said Francis Gurry, WIPO director general. “The rise in the GII by economic powerhouses like China and India have transformed the geography of innovation and this reflects deliberate policy action to promote innovation.”

Among notable key findings this year:

  • The global landscape of science, innovation and technology has undergone important shifts over the last decades. Middle-income economies, especially in Asia, are increasingly contributing to global R&D and international patenting rates.
  • The 2019 index shows that public R&D expenditures – particularly in some high-income economies – are growing slowly or not at all. This raises concerns given the public sector’s central role in funding basic R&D, which is key to future innovations.
  • Increased protectionism poses risks. If left unchecked, it will lead to a slowdown of growth in innovation productivity and diffusion across the globe.
  • Innovation inputs and outputs are still concentrated in very few economies. Divides also persist in how effectively economies obtain return on their innovation investments. Some economies achieve more with less.
  • Most top science and technology clusters are in the U.S., China and Germany, while Brazil, India, Iran, the Russia Federation and Turkey also are in the top 100. The top five clusters: Tokyo-Yokohama (Japan); Shenzhen-Hong Kong (China); Seoul (Republic of Korea); Beijing (China); San Jose-San Francisco (U.S.).

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Rebecca Valli