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Mapped: The Most Innovative Countries in the World in 2022

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Most Innovative Countries 2022

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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 U.S. 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 society—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 CategoriesExample Indicators
🧳 Business SophisticationBusiness R&D spend, net inflows of foreign direct investment
📈 Market SophisticationSize of economy’s GDP, intensity of local market competition
🛣️ InfrastructureRoad, hospital, school construction, energy efficiency
👩‍🏫 Human Capital & ResearchGovernment funding per pupil, quality of scientific and research institutions
🏛️ InstitutionsPolitical stability and safety, ease of starting a business
💡 Creative OutputsMost valuable brands, industrial design applications, trademark applications
👨‍💻 Knowledge and Technology OutputsPatent 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 top⁠ for the 12th year in a row—above the U.S., 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).

RankCountry / RegionScore
1🇨🇭 Switzerland64.6
2🇺🇲 U.S. 61.8
3🇸🇪 Sweden61.6
4🇬🇧 United Kingdom59.7
5🇳🇱 Netherlands58.0
6🇰🇷 South Korea57.8
7🇸🇬 Singapore57.3
8🇩🇪 Germany57.2
9🇫🇮 Finland56.9
10🇩🇰 Denmark55.9
11🇨🇳 China55.3
12🇫🇷 France55.0
13🇯🇵 Japan53.6
14🇭🇰 Hong Kong51.8
15🇨🇦 Canada50.8
16🇮🇱 Israel50.2
17🇦🇹 Austria50.2
18🇪🇪 Estonia50.2
19🇱🇺 Luxembourg49.8
20🇮🇸 Iceland49.5
21🇲🇹 Malta49.1
22🇳🇴 Norway48.8
23🇮🇪 Ireland48.5
24🇳🇿 New Zealand47.2
25🇦🇺 Australia47.1
26🇧🇪 Belgium46.9
27🇨🇾 Cyprus46.2
28🇮🇹 Italy46.1
29🇪🇸 Spain44.6
30🇨🇿 Czech Republic42.8
31🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates42.1
32🇵🇹 Portugal42.1
33🇸🇮 Slovenia40.6
34🇭🇺 Hungary39.8
35🇧🇬 Bulgaria39.5
36🇲🇾 Malaysia38.7
37🇹🇷 Turkey38.1
38🇵🇱 Poland37.5
39🇱🇹 Lithuania37.4
40🇮🇳 India36.6
41🇱🇻 Latvia36.5
42🇭🇷 Croatia35.6
43🇹🇭 Thailand34.9
44🇬🇷 Greece34.5
45🇲🇺 Mauritius34.4
46🇸🇰 Slovakia34.3
47🇷🇺 Russia34.3
48🇻🇳 Vietnam34.3
49🇷🇴 Romania34.1
50🇨🇱 Chile34.0

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.

North America

In North America, the U.S. 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 U.S. 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.

Most Innovative Countries in North America

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 U.S. 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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Can Data Centers Be Sources of Sustainable Heat?

Data centers produce a staggering amount of heat, but what if instead of treating it as waste, we could harness it instead?

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Diagram showing how waste heat from data centers could be recaptured and recycled to provide sustainable heat in residential and commercial settings.

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The following content is sponsored by HIVE Digital

Can Data Centers Be Sources of Sustainable Heat?

Data centers support the modern technologies on which we rely, but also generate incredible amounts of heat as waste. 

And since computers tend to be very sensitive to heat, operators go to great lengths (and expense) to get rid of it, even relocating to countries with lower year-round average temperatures. But what if instead of letting all that heat disappear into thin air, we could harness it instead?

In this visualization, we’ve teamed up with HIVE Digital to see how data centers are evolving to recapture and recycle that energy.

How Much Heat Does a Data Center Produce?

To get an idea how much heat we’re talking about, let’s imagine a mid-sized cryptocurrency operation with 1,000 of the most energy-efficient mining rigs on the market today, the Antminer S21 Hydro. One of these rigs needs 5,360 watts of power, which over a year adds up to 47 MWh.

Multiply that by 1,000 and you end up with over 160 billion BTU, which is enough energy to heat over 4,600 U.S. homes for a year, or if it happens to be Oscar season, enough heat to pop 463,803 metric tons of popcorn. Less if you want melted butter on it. 

How Waste Heat Recycling Works?

At a high level, waste heat is recaptured and transferred via heat exchangers to district heating networks, for example, where it can be used to provide sustainable heat. Cool air is then returned to the data center and the cycle begins again.

Liquid cooling is by far the most efficient means of recapturing and transporting heat, since water can hold roughly four times as much heat as air.

Data centers around the world are already recycling their waste heat to farm trout in Norway, heat research facilities in the U.S., and to heat swimming pools in France.

A Greener Future for Data Centers?

Waste heat recycling has so far been voluntary, led by operators looking to put their operations on a more sustainable footing, but new regulations could change that. 

Amsterdam and Haarlemmermeer in the Netherlands require all new data centers to explore recycling their waste heat. In Norway, they require it for all new data centers above 2 MW, while Denmark has taken a carrot approach, and developed tax cuts and financial incentives. And in late 2023, the EU Energy Efficiency Directive came into force, which will require data centers to recycle waste heat, or show that recovery is technically or economically infeasible. 

With Europe leading the way, could North America be very far behind?

HIVE Digital Provides Sustainable Heat

HIVE Digital is already recycling waste heat from its data center operations in Canada and Sweden. 

Their 30 MW data center in Lachute, Québec, is heating a 200,000 sq. ft. factory, while their 32 MW data center in Boden, Sweden, is heating a 90,000 sq. ft. greenhouse, helping to provide sustainably grown local produce, just one degree short of the Arctic Circle.

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Learn how HIVE Digital is helping to meet the demands of emerging technologies like AI, sustainably.

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