The main messages of the Global Innovation Index 2018 can be summarized in seven key findings.
- Becoming optimistic about global innovation and growth is possible
- Continued investments in breakthrough energy innovations are essential for global growth and to avert an environmental crisis
- China’s rapid rise shows the way for other middle-income economies
- Richer economies, with more diverse industry and export portfolios, are likelier to score high in innovation
- Focusing on translating innovation investments into results is key
- Strong regional innovation imbalances persevere, hampering economic and human development
- Most top science and technology clusters are in the U.S., China, and Germany; Brazil, India, and Iran also make the top 100 list
The report says there is potential to ramp up innovation in most middle-income economies as well as to progressively increase innovation in low-income economies. It asks: looking forward, what if innovation expenditures are aligned with economic growth over the next few years? What if India and other emerging countries in Asia, and hopefully also in other world regions such as Latin America, Central Asia, and Africa—the regions that currently lag in comparison—follow the dynamic innovation trajectory of China in the next several years?
What if increased protectionism—in particular, protectionism that impacts technology-intensive sectors, IP, and knowledge flows across the board—could be contained in the months ahead? Such dynamics could create the basis for productive knowledge spill-overs and opportunities for collaboration and the generation of new knowledge and innovation.
In the energy sector, it says innovation is not the privilege of high-income economies alone. India and China are delving deeper into the downstream applications of photovoltaic technologies. Energy innovation is happening at the grassroots level too. For example, small scale systems to provide electricity for people living far from the grid are on the rise. Yet to realize their full potential, new energy innovation systems, coupled with intense innovation efforts, are needed at all stages of the energy system value chain. Higher levels of technological and nontechnological innovation are required on diverse fronts.
On China, the country’s rise in the GII rankings over the last few years has been spectacular, according to the report. Since 2016 China has featured in the top 25 group and has consistently moved upward in the rankings to 17th this year. The only middle-income economy that continues to edge closer to the top 25 is Malaysia (35th).
China’s innovation prowess becomes evident in various areas. It shows some of its greatest improvements in global R&D companies, high-tech imports, the quality of its publications, and tertiary enrolment. In absolute values, and in areas such as R&D expenditures and the number of researchers, patents, and publications, China is now 1st or 2nd in the world, with volumes that overshadow most high-income economies. Indeed, China presents an impressive example for other middle-income countries to follow as they seek to join the echelons of high-income economies. With this success in mind, China’s attention is now turning to the quality and impact of innovation.
For the second year in a row, the special section on clusters includes a ranking of the world’s largest clusters of science and technology activity. As last year, this ranking relies on international patent filings to identify such clusters. But in addition, this year the cluster ranking introduces scientific publishing activity as an additional measure of cluster performance.
The high-level results are:
- Again, Tokyo–Yokohama tops this ranking, followed by Shenzhen–Hong Kong.
- The U.S., with 26 clusters, accounts for the highest number, followed by China (16), Germany (8), the U.K. (4), and Canada (4).
In addition to China, there are clusters from five middle-income countries—Brazil, India, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Russian Federation, and Turkey—in the top 100.