The World’s 10 Most Innovative Economies
In the 21st century, innovation has become the heart and soul of economic policy. Developed and developing nations alike are in the race to leave industrialization behind, adapting instead to technology-focused, entrepreneurial societies.
Customized cancer treatment, faux meat products, and the smart home technologies are frequently positioned as ‘the next big thing’. But which countries are consistently innovating the most?
Today’s graphic comes from the seventh annual Bloomberg Innovation Index and highlights the 10 most innovative economies, and the seven metrics used to rank 2019’s top contenders.
Bloomberg calculated each country’s innovation score using seven equally-weighted metrics.
- R&D Spending
All research and development funding invested in an economy each year.
- Patent Activity
Number of domestic patents filed, total patent grants, patents per population, filings per GDP, and total grants awarded measured against the global total.
- Tertiary Efficiency
Total enrollment at post-secondary institutions, graduation levels, and number of science and engineering graduates.
- Manufacturing Value-added
Manufacturing output levels that contribute to exports and domestic economic growth.
Overall productivity levels of the working-age population.
- High-tech Density
Number of domestic high-tech public companies, measured against the number of domestic public companies and the global total of public high-tech companies.
- Researcher Concentration
Number of professionals currently engaged in research and development roles.
More than 200 countries were initially considered for Bloomberg’s Innovation Index. Any country reporting in less than six categories was automatically eliminated, leaving 95 countries remaining. Bloomberg publishes the results for the top 60 most innovative economies each year.
Notable Countries in the Top 60
The U.S. rejoined the top 10 after dropping to 11th in 2018 for low scores in education. Israel moved up five spots to 5th place, while Romania made the largest overall gain, jumping six spots to rank in the top 30.
|2019 Rank||Economy||Total Score||Change in Ranking|
|#1||🇰🇷 South Korea||87.38||0|
|#8||🇺🇸 United States||83.21||3|
Brazil rejoined the list at number 45, after not being included on the 2018 list. The United Arab Emirates made the list for the first time, marking the highest debut ever at number 46.
Tunisia and Ukraine were the two countries with the largest losses, which both fell out of the top 50 this year. To date, South Africa is the only Sub-Saharan nation to be ranked in the index.
Newcomers to the Innovation Index in 2019 are some of the largest emerging economies, such as India, Mexico, Vietnam, and Saudi Arabia.
Impact of Global Innovation
Innovation is complex─many factors play a role in the ideation, development, and commercialization of any new technology. And while innovation success can fuel economic growth, it is generally more accessible in high-income economies, where R&D funding is readily available.
“The battle for control of the global economy in the 21st century will be won and lost over control of innovative technologies.”
—Tom Orlik, Bloomberg Economics
The focus of an economy that prioritizes innovation, however, is not simply allocating resources for a group of people─it’s discovering new methods, models, and products that create a better quality of life for society.
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The World’s Biggest Startups: Top Unicorns of 2021
Here are the world’s biggest startups with a valuation above $10 billion.
The World’s Biggest Startups: Top Unicorns of 2021
Many entrepreneurs start businesses around the world, but only the most successful new companies become “unicorns”—the biggest startups with a valuation above $1 billion.
Some unicorns are little-known companies making quiet but impactful strides in software, healthcare, automotive, and other fields. Others have already become well-known industry leaders, like aerospace manufacturer SpaceX and game developer and publisher Epic Games.
In total, there are more than 800 unicorn startups globally. That said, this visualization specifically hones in on the world’s decacorns (unicorns with valuations above $10 billion) as of December 2021 according to CB Insights.
Private Startups Valued at Over $10 Billion
The world’s most prominent unicorns constantly see their valuations change as they enter different rounds of funding or maturity.
In December 2021, there were 35 startups with a valuation above $10 billion, spread out across different countries and industries.
|Canva||$40B||Australia||Internet software & services|
|Instacart||$39B||U.S.||Supply chain, logistics, & delivery|
|Databricks||$38B||U.S.||Data management & analytics|
|FTX||$25B||China (Hong Kong)||Fintech|
|Xiaohongshu||$20B||China||E-commerce & direct-to-consumer|
|J&T Express||$20B||Indonesia||Supply chain, logistics, & delivery|
|Fanatics||$18B||U.S.||E-commerce & direct-to-consumer|
|SHEIN||$15B||China||E-commerce & direct-to-consumer|
|goPuff||$15B||U.S.||E-commerce & direct-to-consumer|
|Grammarly||$13B||U.S.||Internet software & services|
|JUUL Labs||$12B||U.S.||Consumer & retail|
|GoodLeap||$12B||U.S.||Internet software & services|
|ZongMu Technology||$11.4B||China||Auto & transportation|
|Celonis||$11B||Germany||Data management & analytics|
|Weilong||$10.9B||China||Consumer & retail|
Many of the most valuable startups are already giants in their fields. For example, social media company Bytedance is the developer behind video network platform Douyin and its international version, TikTok, and has amassed a valuation of $140 billion.
Financial services and payment software company Stripe jumped from a valuation of $36 billion to $95 billion over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even less universally prominent names like Swedish fintech Klarna ($45.6 billion) and Australian graphic design platform Canva ($40.0 billion) are well known within their respective fields.
But private valuations don’t last forever. Many eventually go public, like electric vehicle maker and Tesla competitor Rivian, which had a valuation of $27.6 billion before listing on the NASDAQ.
The Biggest Startups by Industries and Countries
Breaking down the world’s biggest startups by industry highlights that tech is still king in most investing circles.
More than 77% of unicorns valued above $10 billion are categorized directly in tech-related fields, primarily in financial and commerce software.
|Startups Valued Above $10B By Industry||Number|
|E-commerce & direct-to-consumer||4|
|Internet software & services||3|
|Consumer & retail||2|
|Data management & analytics||2|
|Supply chain, logistics, & delivery||2|
|Auto & transportation||1|
And many of the unicorns categorized in non-tech fields are still technology companies at their core. In fact, Indonesia’s logistics and package delivery company J&T Express is one of the few unicorns not directly in tech, though it still uses automated sorting in its warehouses.
It was one of the few startups to come from somewhere other than the U.S. or China, which together accounted for over 70% of the 35 biggest startups. The UK (3) was the next most-frequently listed headquarters, while Australia, Brazil, Germany, India and Sweden each had one of these unicorns on the list.
With constantly fluctuating valuations and technological breakthroughs always around the corner, the next $10 billion unicorn could come from almost anywhere.
Which Country is the Cheapest for Starting a Business?
These maps show the most (and least) costly countries for starting a business by relative costs.
Which Country is the Cheapest for Starting A Business?
Starting a new business isn’t as simple as coming up with an idea.
In addition to the time investment needed to formulate and create a business, there’s often a hefty capital requirement. A new business usually requires paying different fees for licensing, permits, and approvals, and many governments also have minimum on-hand capital requirements.
And costs are relative. Though it might be more costly to start a business in some countries on paper, affordability also takes into account relative income.
These graphics from BusinessFinancing.co.uk use data from the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report to examine the startup cost for a small-to-medium-size LLC in the largest business cities across 190 countries.
The Cost of Starting a Business in Different Countries
From a pure cost perspective, the affordability of starting a business is extremely dependent on where you are located.
Some countries make the cost of business extremely low to encourage more economic activity. Others have high or nearly inaccessible fees to protect existing businesses, or to simply cash in on the entrepreneurial spirit.
|Country||Cost (2020 USD)||% of Monthly Income|
|Congo (Democratic Republic of the)||80||2.39|
|Trinidad and Tobago||115||0.1|
|Micronesia, Federated States of||231||0.82|
|Papua New Guinea||459||2.71|
|Central African Republic||529||14.55|
|United States of America||725||0.16|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||833||1.93|
|Congo (Republic of the)||1229||25.46|
|Antigua and Barbuda||1271||-%|
|United Arab Emirates||7444||2.23|
At a glance, the cheapest regions for starting a business include Central Asia and Africa.
But the cheapest countries on the dollar for a new startup are Venezuela, Rwanda, and Slovenia. While the former does have fees that only total $0.21, both Rwanda and Slovenia have no fees for new businesses, though Slovenia does have a capital requirement of €7,500.
Expensive countries for new businesses are also spread across the world. There are some in Europe, including Italy at $4,876 and Austria at $2,475, as well as the Americas, including Suriname at $3,030 and Ecuador at $1,630.
The most expensive countries, however, are largely in the Middle East. They include #1 UAE at $7,444, #4 Qatar at $3,952, and #6 Lebanon at $2,855.
Which Country is the Most Affordable for Starting a Business?
Just as costs vary by country, so too does relative affordability.
Though some countries are cheaper than others for starting a business on the dollar, the picture changes when accounting for monthly income. When it comes to the cost of starting a business relative to monthly income, many developed countries take the cake.
Not including countries with missing data, the most affordable countries for starting a business include the UK, Denmark, and Ireland in Europe, South Korea in East Asia, and New Zealand in Oceania. Startup costs in each range from just 1%-2% of monthly income.
The picture is similar in the Americas, where Chile and Canada have the lowest relative fees at 2% and 5% of monthly income respectively. Even the U.S.—which has a decently high cost of $725 for starting a business—is relatively affordable at 16% of monthly income.
Some of the least affordable countries lie in the Middle-East and Central America. Haiti and Suriname have startup costs that are 1,403% and 1,114% of monthly income, while Yemen has affordability rates of 1,070%.
But the least affordable countries are in Africa. Many countries on the continent have startup costs that are more than 100% of monthly income, but the Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic have affordability rates of 2,546% and 1,455% of monthly income, respectively.
Where is the best place to start a business? It can depend on the barrier to entry. But the biggest barrier takes time and ingenuity: finding the right idea at the right time.
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