Trade and Investment

These are the world’s most innovative economies

A Swiss flag is pictured during the sunrise on the Commercial and Financial District in Geneva, Switzerland, November 23, 2017. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse - RC13334AABF0

Which countries come out on top? Image: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Rosamond Hutt
Senior Writer, Formative Content
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Switzerland has clinched first position yet again in the latest Global Innovation Index – a title it has held since 2011.

So is there a Swiss recipe for success? The small, landlocked country punches far above its weight in patenting, intellectual property receipts and manufacturing of high-tech products, according to the report.

Sweden is ranked second followed by the United States, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Image: Statista

Each year the index, produced by the UN World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Cornell University’s SC Johnson College of Business, and graduate business school INSEAD, ranks the innovation performance of nearly 130 economies around the world.

It does this using 80 indicators ranging from research and development expenditure and patent and trademark applications to newer measurements such as mobile app creation and high-tech exports.

This year, notably, the US re-entered the top five, having fallen to sixth in 2018. And Israel, at No. 10, became the first country from the Northern Africa and Western Asia region to break into the top 10.

Best in class

In addition to ranking the world’s most innovative economies, the index highlights regional leaders in innovation (the US, Chile, Switzerland, India, South Africa, Israel and Singapore) and the best performers by income group (Switzerland, China, Vietnam and Rwanda).

China – the only middle-income economy in the top 30 – continues to power its way up the index, moving from 17th position in 2018 to 14th.

Now established as a “world innovation leader”, China ranks highly for patents, industrial designs and trademarks by origin, as well as high-tech and creative goods exports. It’s also home to 18 of the index’s top 100 science and technology clusters – second only to the US.

Image: WIPO

India, too, is noteworthy. It’s the most innovative economy in Central and Southern Asia, and 2019’s biggest mover, jumping five places to 52 (ranked 81 in 2015).

India also consistently ranks among the best countries in the world for drivers of innovation such as ICT services exports, graduates in science and engineering, gross capital formation (a measure of economy-wide investments) and creative goods exports.

Indian tech hubs Bengaluru, Mumbai and New Delhi also feature prominently in the top 100 list of science and technology clusters.

But political instability and conflict are strangling innovation in some parts of the world. The lowest-ranked countries in 2019 are Niger, Burundi and Yemen.

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Innovation is thriving

Despite a slowing global economy, low productivity growth and US-China trade tensions, the outlook is positive for innovation, which, according to the report, is “blossoming” around the world, particularly in Asia.

Investment in innovation has increased across the world over recent years, while the use of intellectual property reached record highs in 2017 and 2018.

And expenditure on research and development has been growing faster than the global economy, more than doubling between 1996 and 2016.

“Never in history have so many scientists worldwide laboured at solving the most pressing global scientific challenges,” the report says.

But on a more cautionary note, it warns of looming pressures from trade disruptions and protectionism, and emphasizes the importance of government policy to encouraging innovation.

Countries that prioritize innovation in their policies have significantly improved their rankings, says Francis Gurry, Director General of WIPO.

The rise on the index of economic powerhouses like China and India has “transformed the geography of innovation and this reflects deliberate policy action to promote innovation," he says in a media release for the launch of the 2019 index in India.

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Trade and InvestmentGeo-economicsEconomic Progress
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