Innovation Index Shows Widening Gap

Sep 8, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

The Global Innovation Index, the bellwether of innovation around the world, just released the 2017 report, with some remarkable results.

What do the rankings measure?  Inputs—institutions, human capital, research, infrastructure, markets, and businesses.  And outputs—patents, research articles, creative products.

Credit: on UnsplashWhat’s the big news this year?  It’s hard to for new innovators to change the status quo.  Not impossible—just difficult. 

Who does well in the Global Innovation Index?  The US and higher income countries in Europe do well.  For the seventh year in a row, Switzerland is in first place.  China emerged as an innovation powerhouse moving from 25th place to 22nd place.

While high-income countries continue to do well, there’s a growing gap between middle-income countries and high-income countries.  Besides China, the next highest rank middle-income country is Bulgaria, in 36th place. 

Why?  A burgeoning inequality and a desire to protect innovations, rather than share them.

Credit: Štefan Štefančík on UnsplashThere’s some hope, though.  Emerging Asian economies like Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Cambodia have some promise.  They are translating inputs like education, training, and research into tangible social and economic outputs, like high tech industries.

They are also graduating high numbers of STEM graduates.  Malaysia is ranked seventh in the world for STEM grads, and the Philippines is ranked 27th.  They also have a solid core of universities devoted to higher education excellence.

Another plus of these emerging economies?  They collaborate well, and export creative goods—they maximize their global advantage. 

Your takeaway?  Take a look at the index, think about the flow of ideas—and consider where you might want your ideas to percolate.

Read more about studying innovation.

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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