12 Years of the World’s Top 10 Most Innovative Countries

The Most Innovative Countries in the World 2022

Since 2000, global investment in research and development (R&D) has tripled to $2.4 trillion.

R&D spend is also casting a wider global net. In 1960, the US made up nearly 70% of global R&D spending, and by 2020 this had fallen to 30%. From job creation and public health to national security and industrial competitiveness, R&D plays a vital role in a country’s economic growth and innovation, impacting nearly every corner of societyโ€”either directly or indirectly.

Along with R&D spend, other key ingredients play an important role in driving progress and innovation. These include technological adoption, scientific research, and venture capital activity, among others.

The above infographic ranks the world’s most innovative economies using data from the UN’s WIPO Global Innovation Index.

What defines an innovative economy?

Innovation is inherently challenging to quantify, but the Global Innovation Index is a longstanding attempt to do just that.

The framework used for the index was designed to create a more complete analysis, comprising of 81 Indicators across seven categories to calculate a country’s score:

7 Categories Example Indicators
๐Ÿงณ Business Sophistication Business R&D spend, net inflows of foreign direct investment
๐Ÿ“ˆ Market Sophistication Size of economy’s GDP, intensity of local market competition
๐Ÿ›ฃ๏ธ Infrastructure Road, hospital, school construction, energy efficiency
๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿซ Human Capital & Research Government funding per pupil, quality of scientific and research institutions
๐Ÿ›๏ธ Institutions Political stability and safety, ease of starting a business
๐Ÿ’ก Creative Outputs Most valuable brands, industrial design applications, trademark applications
๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ’ป Knowledge and Technology Outputs Patent applications, increase in labor productivity, spending on software

As the above table shows, the framework aims to identify indicators that foster an innovative environment and breakthrough technologies.

It’s worth noting that each country’s overall innovation score is a mix of these categories, and countries with similar scores can be strong in different areas.

The 50 Most Innovative Countries in 2022

Switzerland ranks at the topโ  for the 12th year in a rowโ€”above the US, South Korea, and Israel.

For many, this may come as a surprise. However, the country’s intellectual property rules are considered world-class, and they are complemented by strong collaboration between universities and industry. In addition, the country attracts top talent thanks to its high quality of living.

At second is the United States, which is a top spender on R&D at over $700 billion per year. Globally, four of the five top R&D spending companies are in America: Amazon ($42.7 billion), Alphabet ($27.6 billion), Microsoft ($19.3 billion), and Apple ($18.8 billion).

rank Country / Region Score
1 ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ญ Switzerland 64.6
2 ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฒUS 61.8
3 ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ชSweden 61.6
4 ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง United Kingdom 59.7
5 ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Netherlands 58.0
6 ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ท South Korea 57.8
7 ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฌ Singapore 57.3
8th ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง Germany 57.2
9 ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ฎ Finland 56.9
10 ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ฐ Denmark 55.9
11 ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ China 55.3
12 ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ทFrance 55.0
13 ๐Ÿ‡ฏ๐Ÿ‡ต Japan 53.6
14 ๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡ฐ Hong Kong 51.8
15 ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ Canada 50.8
16 ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Israel 50.2
17 ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡น Austria 50.2
18 ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ช Estonia 50.2
19 ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡บ Luxembourg 49.8
20 ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ธ Iceland 49.5
21 ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡น Malta 49.1
22 ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ด Norway 48.8
23 ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ช Ireland 48.5
24 ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฟ New Zealand 47.2
25 ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บAustralia 47.1
26 ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ช Belgium 46.9
27 ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡พ Cyprus 46.2
28 ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น Italy 46.1
29 ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ธSpain 44.6
30 ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฟ Czech Republic 42.8
31 ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ช United Arab Emirates 42.1
32 ๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡น Portugal 42.1
33 ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฎ Slovenia 40.6
34 ๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡บ Hungary 39.8
35 ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฌ Bulgaria 39.5
36 ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡พ Malaysia 38.7
37 ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ทTurkey 38.1
38 ๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ฑ Poland 37.5
39 ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡น Lithuania 37.4
40 ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ณ India 36.6
41 ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ป Latvia 36.5
42 ๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡ท Croatia 35.6
43 ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ญ Thailand 34.9
44 ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ท Greece 34.5
45 ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡บ Mauritius 34.4
46 ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฐ Slovakia 34.3
47 ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ Russia 34.3
48 ๐Ÿ‡ป๐Ÿ‡ณ Viet Nam 34.3
49 ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ดRomania 34.1
50 ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Chile 34.0

Countries across Europe also feature prominently in the top 10, including Sweden (#3), the United Kingdom (#4) and the Netherlands (#5).

South Korea (#6), is known for its high R&D intensity. This is driven by its industrial conglomerates, known as chaebols, that are generally family-owned. Samsung and LG are among its largest companies, known for their high degree of corporate-academic collaboration.

Below, we will take a closer look at the most innovative countries by region.

NorthAmerica

In North America, the US ranks highest. The country has long been known as a global leader in innovation, with a strong track record of introducing new ideas and technologies that have transformed the way we live and work. The US ranks #1 in a number of indicators, including university-industry R&D collaboration and intangible asset intensity.

Ranking second in the region is Canada (Global rank: #15). Across all countries, it ranks first on measures of joint venture and strategic alliances per billion dollars of GDP (PPP) and number of venture capital (VC) recipients per billion dollars of GDP (PPP). In 2021, VC investment topped $14.7 billion across 752 deals.

Another interesting example is Honduras (#113). Driving innovation in the country is a new economic zoning experiment called Zones for Economic Development and Employment (ZEDEs).

To date, these zones have attracted about a quarter of a billion dollars in private investment funding and have created thousands of new jobs.

South America

Chile (#50) ranks first across the region, thanks to its promising tech sector. To date, it is home to an estimated 8,000 tech companies. The country also has the highest scale of mobile connectivity in the region. In late 2021, it launched the first 5G network in South America.

Most Innovative Countries South America

Following Chile is Brazil (#54), which saw a record number of IPOs in 2021 that were valued at nearly $7 billion.

Middle East and Central Asia

As the highest ranked in the region, Israel (#16) is the sole country globally that spends over 5% of GDP on R&D. Overall, it is a global leader in patent applications and information and communication technology (ICT) services exports.

For context, the country’s density of start-ups per capita is 16 times that of Europe.

Most Innovative Countries in Middle East and Central Asia

The small island nation of Cyprus (#27) follows in second, supported by government funding focused on start-ups. Meanwhile, Turkey (#37) in fourth, is home to six unicorns*, fostered by its development of a megatech corridor through Istanbul to Izmir.

*A unicorn is a privately-held startup that has a valuation of over $1 billion.

Europe

With 15 of the top 25 economies in the world, Europe is a powerhouse for fostering innovative ecosystems.

The continent is also a leader in social progress, equality, and life satisfaction. The region scores 30 on inequality according to the Gini Index compared to 41 for America.

Most Innovative Countries in Europe

For many, technological output isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when they think of Europe, but VC deals surged over 53% in 2021. London, Berlin, and Paris were leading cities for VC activity.

East Asia and Oceania

South Korea (#6) ranks highest across East Asia and Oceania, and has established itself as a leader in technology and innovation on the global stage. Through its New Deal initiative, the government is spearheading projects on smart healthcare, AI, and smart industrial complexes. At the same time, it is accelerating the construction of eco-friendly infrastructure and renewable energy.

South Korea’s Hyundai and its subsidiary Kia have made considerable ground in electric vehicle (EV) production, comprising 9% of the US EV market, the second-highest share after Tesla.

Most Innovative Countries in East Asia

China sits just outside the global top 10, and now ranks #1 in multiple indicators, including labor productivity growth and trademarks by origin. China’s economic output per employed worker increased an impressive 4.2% annually from 2011 to 2019, on average.

Africa

The highest ranked in Africa is the island nation of Mauritius (#45).

Underscoring its rank is the strength of its institutions and market sophistication. Meanwhile, the government is accelerating investment in tech incubators, research-business collaboration, and tax incentives for R&D investment.

Most Innovative Countries in Africa

South Africa (#61) follows Mauritius on the list, with the city of Cape Town attracting a proposed $300 million Amazon headquarters.

Panasonic opened their headquarters in Cape Town in 2018. Oracle, IBM, Google, and Microsoft also have offices in the country’s expanding tech hub.

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