Friday, 26 August 2016

WIPO's Global Innovation Index: more than just a beauty parade?

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Global Innovation Index 2016 was published last week. Compiled with the assistance of Cornell University and INSEAD, the Index is a useful resource for economists, politicians, scholars and journalists, if not for businesses and investors themselves. While intellectual property lies at the heart of innovation in this exercise ('patent' and its derivatives appear 575 times in the text, with 'intellectual property' appearing 332 times), the definition of "innovation" is wide and open-ended: 
" ... it is no longer restricted to R&D laboratories and to published scientific papers. Innovation could be and is more general and horizontal in nature, and includes social innovations and business model innovations as well as technical ones".
According to WIPO,
The Global Innovation Index ranks the innovation performance of 128 countries and economies around the world, based on 82 indicators. This edition explores the impact of innovation-oriented policies on economic growth and development. High-income and developing countries alike are seeking innovation-driven growth through different strategies. Some countries are successfully improving their innovation capacity, while others still struggle.
You don't have to be an expert to identify the main signs of a successful, innovation-friendly country. The presence of a skilled and educated workforce, the availability of technical facilities for prototyping and developing new products and services, a thriving commercial environment, an alert and inquisitive customer base with cash to spend, a willingness to take reasonable levels of risk, the ability to supplement gaps through licensing-in and cooperation with others, plus a supply of cheap money, attractive taxation regimes and access to information concerning innovations made elsewhere are all in the plus column. 

On the minus side, innovation is dampened by a variety of factors which include and are not limited to the following: layers of government red tape and regulatory provisions, civil and international wars, aversion to change, the entrenchment of vested commercial interests and a weak infrastructure for legal protection.

This Index is a good deal more sophisticated and detailed in its analyses, as one might expect from a 451-page document that charts the deployment of over 80 separate criteria by which innovation might be measured and discusses its conclusions. 

The Top 25 countries in the WIPO chart read like this:
  1. Switzerland (Number 1 in 2015)
  2. Sweden (3)
  3. United Kingdom (2)
  4. United States of America (5)
  5. Finland (6)
  6. Singapore (7)
  7. Ireland (8)
  8. Denmark (10)
  9. Netherlands (4)
  10. Germany (12)
  11. Republic of Korea (14)
  12. Luxembourg (9)
  13. Iceland (13)
  1. Hong Kong (China) (11)
  2. Canada (16)
  3. Japan (19)
  4. New Zealand (15)
  5. France (21)
  6. Australia (17)
  7. Austria (18)
  8. Israel (22)
  9. Norway (20)
  10. Belgium (25)
  11. Estonia (23)
  12. China (29)

The lowest-scoring countries, in ascending order, are Yemen, Guinea, Togo, Zambia and Niger. Not far above them come some large and heavily under-performing countries:
Venezuela, Pakistan and Nigeria. Over-performers include Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda (which now sits 40 places above Burundi, with which it was once twinned). 

Is this exercise simply a beauty parade, with the most attractive jurisdictions leading the way, or is there more to it? On one level it assists countries at the bottom of the table to see what they must do, or whom they must copy, in order to improve their innovation standards. On another level, it provides investors with guidance as to which markets are likely to provide the most fertile conditions for them to grow their profits. 

The Index itself is however much more than a list of countries and criteria: there is plenty of text in which the subject in hand is described, analysed and explained -- and it is in the text that analytics and big data both receive a mention as facilitators of the innovation process. This blog team is pleased to see this mention and hopes that it will encourage businesses and governments alike to make wider and better use of the information which is often so poorly harnessed when innovations are conceived and commercially exploited.

You can access the full WI
PO document here.

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