The UK is flying high in the global innovation stakes, ahead of the US and out of sight of other major players like Japan, China and South Korea, according to a closely-watched innovation table.
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The Global Innovation Index (GII), co-published Cornell University, INSEAD, and the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), puts the UK in second place behind Switzerland. The US is fifth while more surprising entries include Sweden in third place and the Netherlands in fourth.
Other places in the top 10 were taken by Finland, Singapore, Ireland, Luxemberg and Denmark respectively. Tellingly, Northern European countries accounted for eight of the highest ranking nations.
Taking into account evidence from 141 countries around the world, the GII looks at the innovation policies of governments and considers how well they foster innovation based on the merits of individual economies.
“Innovation holds far-reaching promise for spurring economic growth in countries at all stages of development. However, realizing this promise is not automatic,” said WIPO director general Francis Gurry.
He added: “Each nation must find the right mix of policies to mobilize the innate innovative and creative potential in their economies.”
Looking at innovation stemming from universities, the UK was in second place again, this time behind the US. This measure considered the reach of scholarly articles and patent applications. Japan, Germany and Switzerland also scored well.
The UK is increasingly seen as a centre of innovation and intellectual property. It has several of the world’s best universities and dedicated technology hubs including Tech City in London and ‘Silicon Fen’ in Cambridgeshire (King's College Cambridge pictured above).
But Bruno Lanvin, executive director for global indices at INSEAD and co-editor of the report, stressed that barriers to innovation in developing economies were falling and that some countries in Africa, for example, were starting to punch above the weight of their economic peers.
“In all regions of the world, entrepreneurship, leadership and political will are making a difference regarding innovation,” he said.
“Barriers are falling, and innovation achievers are displaying performances higher than what their income per capita would suggest. Their experience is now becoming a basis for other countries to emulate their success and turn innovation into a truly global engine for sustainable growth.”