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Global Innovation Index 2016


Greetings from D.C.

The U.S. continues to be one of the world’s most innovative nations, with particular strengths that include “the presence of firms conducting global R&D, the sophistication of its financial market, including venture capital, the quality of its universities and scientific publications, software spending, and the state of its innovation clusters.” Areas where the U.S. does not score as well, comparatively, include funding for tertiary education due to its low share of graduates in science and engineering, in energy efficiency, and in economy-wide investment and productivity.

This is according to the latest Global Innovation Index (2016), published by Cornell University, INSEAD and the World Intellectual Property Organization. The Index is based on a continuous evaluation of over 80 indicators, grouped under two sub-indices (those associated with innovation inputs and innovation outputs) and what the report authors call the 7 pillars of innovation. The index covers 128 countries, with data on how each scores on the underlying indicators—and their comparative ranks.

Of particular note for 2016, China has now joined the top 25 list of most innovative economies (ranking 25th). The top 10 include, in descending order, Switzerland, Sweden, UK, U.S., Finland, Singapore, Ireland, Denmark, Netherlands, and Germany. China’s entry marks the first time a middle-income country has joined the highly developed economies that typically comprise the top of the list.

The key findings from the 2016 report include: 

  1. Leveraging global innovation can help avoid a continued low-growth scenario.
  2. There is a need for a global innovation mindset and discussions on fresh governance frameworks.
  3. Innovation is becoming more global, but divides remain.
  4. There is no mechanical recipe to create sound innovation systems; entrepreneurial incentives and “space for innovation” matter.
  5. Sub-Saharan Africa needs to preserve the innovation momentum in one of the most promising regions. 
  6. Latin America is a region with untapped innovation potential, with important risks to innovation efforts in the near-term.


As with any ranking study of this type, the devil is often in the details—and the underlying factors and methodology employed to assess where an entry is situated in the final list. This report is no different in that respect, and those interested in these findings should certainly make the effort to better understand the methodology utilized.

See the full report here for a thorough presentation on the underlying indicators, how each economy scored for each indicator, and more detail on the overarching thematic findings and conclusions (and policy recommendations where appropriate) based on those findings.

Gary can be reached at gkjones.ctr@federallabs.org.

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