Switzerland Retains Top Rank in Innovation, Report Says

4 July 2012

Switzerland has been named the world's most innovative economy for the second consecutive year, according to a report released on Tuesday in Geneva by business school INSEAD and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Sweden and Singapore retained their positions as second and third most innovative economies, with Finland, the UK, the Netherlands, Denmark, Hong Kong, Ireland, and the US rounding out the top ten.

The Global Innovation Index (GII) - published in collaboration with Alcatel-Lucent, Booz & Company, and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) - has been prepared annually since 2007 "to measure countries' innovation capacity and innovation performances," said  Soumitra Dutta, Roland Berger Professor of Business and Technology at INSEAD and founder of the GII.

To achieve this objective, Dutta said, the GII tries to go beyond the classic indicators of innovation. "Indicators of the past - such as the number of scientists and publications or the expenditures on research and development - are still relevant. However, the concept of innovation has broadened," Dutta explained.

This year's edition assesses 141 countries through innovation inputs and outputs, divided into a total of 84 indicators. The input indicators attempt to capture elements of a national economy that enable innovation, such as ecological sustainability, access to information and communication technologies, quality of research institutions, and political stability. Outputs focus on evidence of scientific and creative innovation such as online creativity, domestic resident patent applications, computer software spending, and creative services exports.

Emerging economies top innovation efficiency ranking

Though no emerging economies placed in the GII top 30, China and India came out ahead in the innovation efficiency index ranking, which indicates which countries are best in transforming given innovation inputs into innovation outputs. They are followed by Moldova, Malta, Switzerland, Paraguay, Serbia, Estonia, the Netherlands, and Sri Lanka.

"Strong innovation divides still persist between different countries and regions, with high-income countries still dominating the innovation landscape," said Dutta, who stressed the need for the so-called BRIC countries - Brazil, Russia, India, and China - to continue investing in innovation. Dutta also pointed out that China is now close or even supersedes the top 10 ranking with respect to some indicators - such as knowledge and technology outcomes.

Innovation key for economic growth, social transformation

"Innovation is a crucial element for economic growth and employment," WIPO Director General Francis Gurry said in his opening remarks at the launch on Tuesday, particularly as policymakers endeavour to find solutions for the ongoing global economic crisis.

During the panel discussion that followed, Sibusiso Sibisi - President and CEO of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, South Africa - called innovation a "social transformer" that can "enable greater inclusion, to enable people to create their enterprises and participate in economic growth."

Commentators also highlighted the importance of linkages between different innovation actors. "Coherence at country level and coherence of innovation policies are important," said Per-Ola Karlsson, Senior Partner and Managing Director of Europe, Booz & Company.

"It is not a question of quantitative R&D expenditures, number of researchers or patents...It's about strategies, how to link various stakeholders towards successful innovation," Karlsson added.

The importance of tailoring innovation to regional and local needs was also a main point expressed by discussants. Mohammed Al-Suwaiyel - President of King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, Saudi Arabia - said that "we need a different set of tools to nurture and promote innovation in  the developing world."

Jeong Kim of Bell Labs/Alcatel-Lucent echoed that sentiment, saying that in order to reap the benefits from innovation, results should be tailored to "local visions" in each country.

ICTSD reporting.

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