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 Categories||Example Indicators|
|🧳 Business Sophistication||Business R&D spend, net inflows of foreign direct investment|
|📈 Market Sophistication||Size of economy’s GDP, intensity of local market competition|
|🛣️ Infrastructure||Road, hospital, school construction, energy efficiency|
|👩🏫 Human Capital & Research||Government funding per pupil, quality of scientific and research institutions|
|🏛️ Institutions||Political stability and safety, ease of starting a business|
|💡 Creative Outputs||Most valuable brands, industrial design applications, trademark applications|
|👨💻 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 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).
|Rank||Country / Region||Score|
|4||🇬🇧 United Kingdom||59.7|
|6||🇰🇷 South Korea||57.8|
|14||🇭🇰 Hong Kong||51.8|
|24||🇳🇿 New Zealand||47.2|
|30||🇨🇿 Czech Republic||42.8|
|31||🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates||42.1|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Infographic: 11 Tech Trends to Watch in 2023
This infographic highlights eleven exciting areas within the world of technology worth keeping an eye on in 2023.
Infographic: 11 Tech Trends to Watch in 2023
It can be tough to keep up with the rapid pace of innovation.
Each new year delivers the full spectrum of progress from game-changing breakthroughs to incremental advancements in a wide variety of fields.
In a noisy media landscape fueled by hype and speculation, it can be tough to know where true value is being created. The infographic above, which draws from CB Insights’ recent report on 11 Tech Trends To Watch Closely in 2023, helps narrow down some areas of focus:
- The secret invasion of super apps
- Fintech’s rapid regeneration
- Bots in the house
- Virtual power plants
- Healthcare’s invisibility trick
- Smell goes digital
- Femtech turns to menopause
- The bio-based materials boom
- India’s tech ascent
- Regenerative agtech takes root
The report draws information from earnings transcripts, media mentions, investment activity, patents, and more to arrive at the trends listed.
We’ll examine three of these trends below in a bit more detail.
Setting the Stage: Clash of the Super Apps
The concept of a super app—an all-in-one smartphone application that integrates a wide range of services—is far from new. In fact, for years now, WeChat has been the go-to app for many Chinese citizens to chat, order services, pay bills, and more.
A natural question comes to mind: why doesn’t an app like that exist in Western countries yet? Well, there are a couple of key reasons:
- Consumers and regulators alike are wary of providers holding so much personal information and power. In China, WeChat actually had government support, integrating public services into the app. As well, expectations of personal privacy are completely different in China than in Western countries
- Unlike China, which rapidly adopted digital payments, North America and Europe had preexisting near-ubiquitous financial networks in place. Super apps were a game changer for millions of unbanked consumers in China and beyond.
The situation is changing rapidly though, and 2023 could be the year that the foundations are laid for a clash of various Big Tech incarnations of the super app.
In late 2022, Microsoft was rumored to be building a super app using Bing as the foundation, and recent investment into ChatGPT adds fuel to that fire. Even Elon Musk hinted at his ambitions to turn Twitter into a one-stop-shop for just about everything.
There are still significant barriers to bundling a plethora of services into a single app, but that isn’t stopping companies from racing to be the one to do it. To the victor go the spoils.
The Resiliency of Life Extension
The concepts of immortality and age reversal have been a preoccupation of mankind since the dawn of time, so it stands to reason that technology that promises extra lifespan and quality of life continues to be compelling for individuals and investors alike.
Players in this space can approach life extension and anti-aging from a number of different angles, from supplements to tinkering at the cellular level.
Two high-profile examples in this space are Calico, which is a subsidiary of Alphabet, and the Jeff Bezos-backed Altos Labs. Other billionaires have expressed an interest in life extension as well, including Peter Thiel, who has definitive views on mortality.
I believe if we could enable people to live forever, we should do that. […] I think it is against human nature not to fight death. – Peter Thiel
In 2023, look for more investment and news from startups focused on gene therapy, genome analysis, regenerative medicine, or “longevity in a pill”.
Beyond Plastic: The Bio-Based Materials Boom
Public pressure is mounting for producers of consumer goods to change the way they manufacture their products.
The good news is that many of the largest producers of consumer packaged goods and apparel have some kind of plan in place to use more post-consumer recycled plastic in their products. The bad news is that not enough plastic is recycled globally for companies to source enough material to produce their products more sustainably. As a result, many companies are exploring the option of ditching plastic entirely.
For example, materials derived from seaweed are an active area of innovation right now. Mushrooms and algae are also commonly-used materials from nature that are being used to create biodegradable products. In one particularly interesting example, a company called MycoWorks recently began working with GM Ventures to explore the use of mycelium-based leather alternatives in GM’s vehicles.
While researchers and companies are just scratching the surface of what’s possible, consumers are likely to see more tangible examples of bio-based materials popping up in stores. After all, brands will be very eager to talk about their increasingly plastic-free product lines.
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