Global Innovation Index 2019: How Does Your Home Nation Rank?

The Global Innovation Index is produced every single year and ranks economies based on 80 metrics to find the most innovative.
Christopher McFadden
Left: Singapore, Right: Switzerland1, 2

What is the world's most innovative country? It seems like an impossible question to answer but thankfully it has already been done for us. 

The Global Innovation Index has been compiled and released every year since 2007 and is seen as the de facto method of ranking economies by innovation around the world. 

Let's take a look at their most recent findings for 2019. 


What is the Global Innovation Index?

The Global Innovation Index, now in its 12th edition, is produced each year in a collaboration between Cornell University, INSEAD, and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) - - a specialized agency of the United Nations. Since it was first launched in 2007, GLL is now widely recognized as the leading benchmark tool for business executives, policymakers and others seeking insight into the state of innovation around the world.

It ranks 129 economies based on over 80 indicators from traditional measurements like research and development output, international patent and trademark applications to things like mobile-phone app creation and high-tech exports. 

“The GII shows us that countries that prioritize innovation in their policies have seen significant increases in their rankings,” WIPO Director General Francis Gurry said. “The rise in the GII by economic powerhouses like China and India has transformed the geography of innovation and this reflects deliberate policy action to promote innovation,” he added.

The GII study is produced with the aid of the expertise of various organizations including:

  • The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII)
  • Dassault Systèmes – The 3DEXPERIENCE Company
  • The National Confederation of Industry (CNI)
  • Serviço Brasileiro de Apoio às Micro e Pequenas Empresas (SEBRAE)
  • And an Advisory Board of eminent international experts

"The core of the GII Report consists of a ranking of world economies’ innovation capabilities and results. Recognizing the key role of innovation as a driver of economic growth and prosperity, and the need for a broad vision of innovation applicable to developed and emerging economies, the GII includes indicators that go beyond the traditional measures of innovation, such as the level of research and development." - WIPO.

The 2019 Index has the theme "Creating Healthy Lives – The Future of Medical Innovation." In its healthcare themed section, the GII specifically looked at how medical innovation, including how artificial intelligence (AI), genomics, and mobile-phone-based health applications are transforming the nature of healthcare in an economy. 

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Innovation in the medical sciences is, in GII's view, incredibly important for society and nation. Bruno Lanvin, INSEAD Executive Director for Global Indices, explains: -

“Innovation in the field of health is now being increasingly driven by data (Internet of Things) and artificial intelligence, in both diagnosis and prognosis. Unprecedented challenges need urgent attention in ethical, social and economic dimensions. As the power of medical decisions moves farther away from medical professions, regulators, governments, businesses, and civil society need to establish limits to the ways in which the holders of big data and advanced algorithms can make or influence health decisions. In the absence of swift action, innovation in health and medicine may become a significant source of inequality,"

How is innovation measured on the GII?

The GII has developed a suite of 80 indicators to rank each economy. These indicators have been standardized and form a continual evaluation over time.  

Some of its key features are: 

  • 129 country/economy profiles, including data, ranks, and strengths and weaknesses
  • 80 data tables for indicators from over 30 international public and private sources, of which 57 are hard data, 18 composite indicators, and 5 survey questions
  • A transparent and replicable computation methodology including 90% confidence intervals for each index ranking (GII, output and input sub-indices) and an analysis of factors affecting year-on-year changes in rankings

"The GII 2019 is calculated as the average of two sub-indices. The Innovation Input Sub-Index gauges elements of the national economy which embody innovative activities grouped in five pillars:

  • Institutions,
  • Human capital and research,
  • Infrastructure,
  • Market sophistication, and
  • Business sophistication.

The Innovation Output Sub-Index captures actual evidence of innovation results, divided into two pillars:

  • Knowledge and technology outputs and
  • Creative outputs.

For the ninth consecutive year, the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission audited the GII calculations." - WIPO.

What are the most innovative countries in the world in 2019?

According to the 2019 GII, the top 20 most innovative countries are as follows: -

  1. Switzerland - Also ranked 1st in 2018
  2. Sweden - Climbed up one place from 3rd in 2018
  3. The United States of America - Up from 6th place in 2018
  4. The Netherlands - Dropped down from 2nd in 2018
  5. The United Kingdom - Dropped down one place from 4th in 2018
  6. Finland - Climbed up one place from 7th in 2018
  7. Denmark - Also up one place from 7th in 2018
  8. Singapore - Dropped down from 5th place in 2018
  9. Germany - Held position since 2018
  10. Israel - Climbed up one place since 2018
  11. Korea, Republic of - Also climbed up one place since 2018
  12. Ireland - has dropped down from 10th place in 2018
  13. Hong Kong (China) - Climbed up one place from 14th in 2018
  14. China - Gained three positions since 2018
  15. Japan - Dropped from 13th place in 2018
  16. France - Held its position since 2018
  17. Canada - Climbed up one place since 2018
  18. Luxemburg - Dropped down three places since 2018
  19. Norway - Held its position since 2018
  20. Iceland - Climbed up three places since 2018
GII world rankings 2019
Source: WIPO/GII

The bottom ten economies were were as follows: 

  • Nicaragua.
  • Madagascar.
  • Zimbabwe.
  • Benin.
  • Zambia.
  • Guinea.
  • Togo.
  • Niger (the).
  • Burundi.
  • Yemen.

Their other key findings, which can be found in Annex II of the report, were as follows: -

  • Science, innovation, and technology around the world have seen significant shifts over the last few decades. Middle-income economies in places like Asia are increasingly contributing to global R and D and international patent rates through WIPO's International Patent System.
  • Public R and D spending, especially in high-income economies, are either not growing or are growing slowly. This is concerning because public sector investment in R and D and blue-sky research are seen as key to future innovation in a nation.
  • An increase in protectionism might, if left uncontained, lead to a slow down of growth in innovation and technology diffusion around the world.
  • Most innovation input and output is still restricted to just a few major economies. There are also divides between the return on innovation investments with some economies able to achieve more with less.
  • Most top science and technology clusters are in the U.S., China, and Germany, while Brazil, India, Iran, the Russian Federation, and Turkey also feature in the top 100 list. The top five clusters: Tokyo-Yokohama (Japan); Shenzhen-Hong Kong, China (China); Seoul (Republic of Korea); Beijing (China); San Jose-San Francisco (U.S.).
GII 2019 global leaders infographic
Source: WIPO/GII

“While the Global Innovation Index ranks economies according to their innovation capacity and performance, it also provides valuable insights into the dynamics of global innovation: It highlights economies that excel in innovation and those that are more successful in translating investments in innovation inputs into innovation outputs. Lessons from these innovation leaders provide useful guidance on innovation policy for others,” said Soumitra Dutta, Former Dean and Professor of Management at Cornell University, a GII co-publisher.

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