Research, technology keep pace despite lingering economic crisis– UN-backed report

Researchers have much to contribute towards fighting rural poverty. Photo: FAO

1 July 2013 – Despite the economic crises, innovation is alive and well with research and development spending levels up, the United Nations intellectual property agency today said unveiling the latest Global Innovation Index.

The Index, created in part by the UN World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), ranks 142 economies on their ability to innovate and on the results that are achieved, ranging from quality of top universities and availability of microfinance to venture capital deals.

“This year's Global Innovation Index shows that the face of innovation in the twenty-first century is changing,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, adding that innovation is “increasingly open, collaborative and international.”

Switzerland tops the 2013 Index, followed by Sweden, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. The United States moved up from 10th place last year to round out the top five, followed by Finland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Denmark and Ireland, in that order for the top 10.

Today's publication is timed with the opening of the four-day High-Level segment of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in Geneva. This year's theme focuses on how science and technology can help to achieve the eight anti-poverty targets knows as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the develop agenda that will follow.

“My High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda highlighted the need to have an accurate picture of progress and where we must intensify efforts,” Mr. Ban said from Geneva.

“The Global Innovation Index provides a unique and important tool for meeting this objective by offering a detailed set of metrics for refining innovation policies,” he added.

The Index also showed that middle and low-income countries, in particular China, Coast Rica, India and Senegal, are outpacing their peers in terms of research and development.

Regionally, Latin America showed the most significant improvement in the rankings, with Costa Rica, Chile and Barbados as the top three economies for that part of the world.

“Dynamic innovation hubs are multiplying around the world despite the difficult state of the global economy. These hubs leverage local advantages with a global outlook on markets and talent,” said WIPO Director General Francis Gurry.

He added that national-level policymakers seeking to support innovation must realize the full potential of innovation in their own backyards, rather than trying to emulate successful innovation models elsewhere.

The Index shows “a striking pattern of stability among the most innovative nations,” according to a statement from WIPO.

The rankings show that that while individual countries swap their respective rankings within these groups, not a single country moved in or out of such groups in 2013.

One interpretation, according to the UN agency, is that innovation success leads to the emergence of a virtuous circle: once a critical threshold has been reached, investment attracts investment, talent attracts talent, and innovation generates more innovation.

The Index has been released since 2007, published in part by Cornell University and the Institut Européen d'Administration des Affaires (INSEAD).

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