Ranked: The Most Innovative Economies in the World
Innovation was again a front-of-mind theme in Davos at the World Economic Forum’s annual assembly of political and business leaders in 2020.
The global conversation centered around the ability of countries to innovate in the face of changing times. An economy’s response to megatrends, such as tech breakthroughs and the risks of climate change, can dictate its long-term success.
Today’s chart identifies the world’s top 20 most innovative economies, based on the annual index created by Bloomberg. We also delve into how the top 10 spots have evolved over time.
How Are Innovative Economies Measured?
Each year, the index assesses over 200 economies across seven weighted metrics.
- R&D Intensity
Annual research and development spending, as a % of an economy’s gross domestic product (GDP).
- Patent Activity
The number of annual patent and grant filings, and the 3-year average growth of filings abroad and filings growth, as a share of the world’s total patent growth.
- Tertiary Efficiency
The total enrollment in higher education, the share of labor force with advanced education levels, and the share of STEM graduates and in the labor force.
- Manufacturing Value-added
Manufacturing output levels—contributing to exports—as a % of GDP, and per capita.
GDP and gross national income (GNI) in the working age population, and the 3-year improvement.
- High-tech Density
The volume of domestic, high-tech public companies as a share of the world’s total companies. Examples of high-tech companies include: aerospace and defense, biotech, internet services, and renewable energy.
- Researcher Concentration
Professionals (including postgraduate PhD students) engaged in R&D across the population.
Based on available data of these measures, only 105 countries made the final cut for this year’s edition of the index—below are the 60 most innovative economies scored out of 100 points, and the highlights from that list.
The 10 Most Innovative Economies
For the first time in years, Germany clinched the top spot for the most innovative economy, ending South Korea’s winning streak. The European nation scores in the top five for its manufacturing value-added, high-tech density, and patent activity metrics.
However, even winners have some room for improvement. As the global economy sways ever more in the direction of services over manufacturing, Germany could improve its rate of higher education to achieve an even better score on the index.
Ranking third overall, Singapore leads the charge for tertiary efficiency, with almost 85% gross enrollment in higher education as of 2017. In contrast, Germany’s enrollment stood at around 70% in the same year.
Which other countries sit in the top 10?
|Rank||Country||Score||YoY Rank Change||Best-performing Metric|
|#1||🇩🇪 Germany||88.21||+1||High-tech density, Patent activity (tied)|
|#2||🇰🇷 South Korea||88.16||-1||R&D intensity|
|#3||🇸🇬 Singapore||87.01||+3||Tertiary efficiency (Ranked #1)|
|#4||🇨🇭 Switzerland||85.67||0||R&D intensity, Researcher concentration (tied)|
|#5||🇸🇪 Sweden||85.50||+2||R&D intensity|
|#6||🇮🇱 Israel||85.03||-1||R&D intensity (Ranked #1)|
|#7||🇫🇮 Finland||84.00||-4||Productivity, Researcher concentration (tied)|
|#8||🇩🇰 Denmark||83.22||+3||Researcher concentration (Ranked #1)|
|#9||🇺🇸 United States||83.17||-1||High-tech density, Patent activity
(Tied, Ranked #1 for both)
|#10||🇫🇷 France||82.75||0||High-tech density|
A global hub for innovation, South Korea is still not to be ignored. With one of the most complex economies around, it leads in exports of communications technology and cars. It’s also at the forefront of 5G, being the first country to roll it out—so it’s no surprise that South Korea spends big on research, relative to its GDP.
R&D spending determines life or death for South Korean companies… It’s about widening whatever lead South Korea has—or else China will catch up.
—Chang Suk-Gwon, University professor in Seoul
The United States ranks in first place for both patent activity, and high-tech density—with the highest share of domestic high-tech public companies in the world. With the “Big Five” tech giants all headquartered here, it’s easy to see their impact on a global scale.
Over the past five years, the top 10 players in this index have shuffled around, but remained quite consistent. But one particular economy may well upend the future leaderboard.
The Most Innovative Economies (#11-20)
In 2020, the #11-#20 ranked innovative countries show an interesting mix.
|Rank||Country||Score||YoY Ranking Change||Best-performing metric|
|#11||🇦🇹 Austria||82.40||+1||R&D intensity|
|#12||🇯🇵 Japan||82.31||-3||R&D intensity, Manufacturing value-added (tied)|
|#13||🇳🇱 Netherlands||81.28||+2||High-tech density|
|#14||🇧🇪 Belgium||79.93||-1||R&D intensity, Productivity (tied)|
|#15||🇨🇳 China||78.80||+1||Patent activity (Ranked #2)|
|#16||🇮🇪 Ireland||78.65||-2||Manufacturing value-added, Productivity
(Tied, Ranked #1 for both)
|#18||🇬🇧 United Kingdom||76.03||0||Tertiary efficiency|
|#19||🇮🇹 Italy||75.76||+2||High-tech density|
China’s steady rise (up from 21st place in 2017) could be because it scores second worldwide for patent activity. This comes from the aggressive 6,000 patents filed since 2015 by the nation’s own tech giants. The patents cover breakthrough technologies from AI and blockchain, to autonomous driving and even regenerative medicine.
Ireland comes in first place on both manufacturing value-added and productivity metrics. In fact, for every hour worked, employed Irish people add $99.50 to national GDP.
The Full List
Below is the full list of all 60 innovative economies highlighted in the 2020 index.
|Rank||Country||Score||YoY Ranking Change|
Highlights from the rest of the list include:
- Slovenia improved the most by 10 places (to the #21 spot) thanks to its stronger patent activity.
- New Zealand slid by 10 places to the 29th spot, falling for the third consecutive year.
- Last but not least, four countries or jurisdictions made their debut onto the index in 2020: Algeria, Egypt, Kazakhstan, and Macao.
It’s clear that many countries are continuously pushing the envelope in order to maintain their competitiveness within the global economy—and constant innovation can provide a better life for their present and future populations.
Which Streaming Service Has the Most Subscriptions?
From Netflix and Disney+ to Spotify and Apple Music, we rank the streaming services with the most monthly paid subscriptions.
Which Streaming Service Has The Most Subscriptions?
Many companies have launched a streaming service over the past few years, trying to capitalize on the digital media shift and launching the so-called “streaming wars.”
After Netflix grew from a small DVD-rental company to a household name, every media company from Disney to Apple saw recurring revenues ripe for the taking. Likewise, the audio industry has long-since accepted Spotify’s rise to prominence, as streaming has become the de facto method of consumption for many.
But it was actually the unexpected COVID-19 pandemic that solidified the foothold of digital streaming, with subscription services seeing massive growth over the last year. Although it was expected that many new services would flounder along the way, media subscription services saw wide scale growth and adoption almost across the board.
We’ve taken the video, audio, and news subscription services with 5+ million subscribers to see who came out on top—and who has grown the most quickly—over the past year. Data comes from the FIPP media association as well as individual company reports.
Streaming Service Giants: Netflix and Amazon
The top of the streaming giant pantheon highlights two staples of business: the first-mover advantage and the power of conglomeration.
With 200+ million global subscribers, Netflix has capitalized on its position as the first and primary name in digital video streaming. Though its consumer base in the Americas has begun to plateau, the company’s growth in reach (190+ countries) and content (70+ original movies slated for 2021) has put it more than 50 million subscribers ahead of its closest competition.
The story is the same in the audio market, where Spotify’s 144 million subscriber base is more than double that of Apple Music, the next closest competitor with 68 million subscribers.
Meanwhile, Amazon’s position as the second most popular video streaming service with 150 million subscribers might be surprising. However, Prime Video subscriptions are included with membership to Amazon Prime, which saw massive growth in usage during the pandemic.
|Service||Type||Subscribers (Q4 2020)|
|Amazon Prime Video||Video||150.0M|
|Amazon Prime Music||Audio||55.0M|
|Tencent Music (Group)||Audio||51.7M|
|New York Times||News||6.1M|
Another standout is the number of large streaming services based in Asia. China-based Tencent Video (also known as WeTV) and Baidu’s iQIYI streaming services both crossed 100 million paid subscribers, with Alibaba’s Youku not far behind with 90 million.
Disney Leads in Streaming Growth
But perhaps most notable of all is Disney’s rapid ascension to the upper echelons of streaming service giants.
Despite Disney+ launching in late 2019 with a somewhat lackluster content library (only one original series with one episode at launch), it has quickly rocketed both in terms of content and its subscriber base. With almost 95 million subscribers, it has amassed more subscribers in just over one year than Disney expected it could reach by 2024.
|Service||Type||Percentage Growth (2019)|
|Amazon Prime Video||Video||100.0%|
|Amazon Prime Music||Audio||71.9%|
|Tencent Music (Group)||Audio||66.8%|
|New York Times||News||60.5%|
The Disney+ wave also spurred growth in partner streaming services like Hotstar and ESPN+, while other services with smaller subscriber bases saw large growth rates thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The lingering question is how the landscape will look when the pandemic starts to wind down, and when all the new players are accounted for. NBCUniversal’s Peacock, for example, has reached over 30 million subscribers as of January 2021, but the company hasn’t yet disclosed how many are paid subscribers.
Likewise, competitors are investing in content libraries to try and make up ground on Netflix and Disney. HBO Max is slated to start launching internationally in June 2021, and ViacomCBS rebranded and expanded CBS All Access into Paramount+.
And international growth is vital. Three of the top six video streaming services by subscribers are based in China, while Indian services Hotstar, ALTBalaji, and Eros Now all saw surges in subscriber bases, with more room left to grow.
How Do Esports Companies Compare with Sports Teams?
With some esports companies more valuable than traditional sports teams, we visualize esports vs sports in franchise value.
How Do Esports Companies Compare with Sports Teams?
Are esports on the same level as “real” sports? These comparisons range from tricky to subjective, but the monetary value of companies speak for themselves.
The world’s largest esports companies have definitely risen to the occasion. Valued at almost half-a-billion dollars, they’ve started to pass some sports franchises in value.
In the above graphic, we compare Forbes’ valuation of the top 10 esports companies in 2020 against median franchises in the “Big Four” major leagues (NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL). Despite competitive gaming’s rapid growth, there’s still a long way left to go.
Esports Impress but NFL Teams Reign Supreme
The world’s top esports companies have grown quickly, and impressively.
As of 2018, there was only one esports company worth more than $300 million in valuation. By 2020, four of the top 10 were valued at more than $300 million.
|Esports Company||Games with Franchises||Value (2020)|
|TSM||League of Legends||$410M|
|Cloud9||League of Legends, Overwatch||$350M|
|Team Liquid||League of Legends||$310M|
|FaZe Clan||Call of Duty||$305M|
|100 Thieves||League of Legends, Call of Duty||$190M|
|Gen.G||League of Legends, Overwatch, NBA 2K||$185M|
|Enthusiast Gaming||Call of Duty, Overwatch||$180M|
|G2 Esports||League of Legends||$175M|
|NRG Esports||Call of Duty, Overwatch||$155M|
|T1||League of Legends||$150M|
When compared to traditional sports valuations, esports companies have already reached major league hockey status.
TSM, the world’s most valuable esports company in 2020, has a higher valuation than five NHL franchises. In fact, four esports companies were estimated to be more valuable than two NHL franchises, the Florida Panthers and Arizona Coyotes.
But other sports leagues are further away. While the median value of an NHL franchise in 2020 was $520 million, the MLB, NBA, and NFL all saw median values of over $1.6 billion.
|Esports vs. Sports Franchises||Lowest Valued Team||Highest Valued Team||Median|
|Esports (Top 10)||$150M||$410M||$188M|
Differences in Esports vs Sports Structures and Growth
Try as we might to make a clean apples-to-apples comparison between esports and traditional sports teams, there are significant differences in the business models to consider.
For starters, major esports companies own multiple franchises and non-franchise teams across many games. Cloud9 owns both the eponymous Cloud9 League of Legends franchise and the London Spitfire Overwatch franchise, for example, as well as non-franchise teams in Halo, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Fortnite, and other games.
The revenue streams for esports companies are also extremely varied. Companies like TSM, 100 Thieves, FaZe Clan and Enthusiast Gaming made 50% or more of their revenue from outside of esports, having instead expanded into diverse companies with an equal focus on content creation and apps.
But it’s this greater ability to diversify, and the still-increasing size of esports fandom, that continues to grow esports valuations. In fact, TSM’s estimated 2020 revenue of $45 million is less than half of the Arizona Coyotes’ estimated revenue of $95 million, despite a $100+ million valuation difference in favor of TSM.
That’s why the continued maturation of esports is only going to make traditional sports comparisons easier, and closer. Instead of having to pit companies against franchises, direct league-to-league comparisons will be possible, and the differences will likely shrink from billions to millions.
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