Switzerland, Sweden, Netherlands, US and UK top the Global Innovation Index 2017

15 Jun 2017 | News
In the tenth edition of the Index, China becomes the first-ever middle income economy to be ranked in the top 25

Switzerland, Sweden, the Netherlands, the US and the UK are the world’s most-innovative countries, while a group of nations including India, Kenya, and Viet Nam are outperforming their development-level peers, according to the Global Innovation Index 2017 

Key findings show the rise of India as an emerging innovation centre in Asia, high innovation performance in sub-Saharan Africa relative to development and an opportunity to improve innovation capacity in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Global Innovation Index surveys 130 economies using metrics from patent filings to education spending, providing policy makers with a high level look at the innovative activity that increasingly drives economic and social growth.

Now in its tenth edition, the 2017 Index notes a continued gap in innovative capacity between developed and developing nations and lacklustre growth rates for research and development activities, both at the government and corporate levels. 

The Index is co-authored by Cornell University, INSEAD and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

At a glance: The Global Innovation Index 2017

  • Switzerland (Number 1 in 2016)
  • Sweden (2)
  • Netherlands (9)
  • US (4)
  • UK (3)
  • Denmark (8)
  • Singapore (6)
  • Finland (5)
  • Germany (10)
  • Ireland (7)
  • Republic of Korea (11)
  • Luxembourg (12)
  • Iceland (13)
  • Japan (16)
  • France (18)
  • Hong Kong (China) (14)
  • Israel (21)
  • Canada (15)
  • Norway (22)
  • Austria (20)
  • New Zealand (17)
  • China (25)
  • Australia (19)
  • Czech Republic (27)
  • Estonia (24)
Switzerland leads the rankings for the seventh consecutive year, with high-income economies taking 24 of the top 25 spots, China is the exception at 22. In 2016, China became the first-ever middle income economy in the top 25.

A group of middle and lower-income economies perform significantly better on innovation than their current level of development would predict. A total of 17 economies comprise these ‘innovation achievers’ this year, a slight increase from 2016. In total, nine come from the sub-Saharan Africa region, including Kenya and Rwanda, and three economies come from Eastern Europe.

Next to innovation powerhouses such as China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea, a group of Asian economies including Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines and Viet Nam are actively working to improve their innovation ecosystems and rank high in a number of important indicators related to education, R&D, productivity growth, high-tech exports, among others.

The theme of the 2017 Index, “Innovation Feeding the World,” looks at innovation carried out in agriculture and food systems. Over the next decades, the agriculture and food sector will face an enormous rise in global demand and increased competition for limited natural resources. In addition, it will need to adapt to and help mitigate climate change. Innovation is key to sustaining the productivity growth required to meet this rising demand and to helping enhance the networks that integrate the sustainable food production, processing, distribution, consumption, and waste management known as food systems.

“We are already witnessing the rapid, worldwide emergence of ‘digital agriculture,’ which includes drones, satellite-based sensors and field robotics,” said Bruno Lanvin, INSEAD Executive Director for Global Indices. “Now there is an urgent need for ‘smart agriculture’ to optimise supply and distribution chains and foster creative new business models that minimise pressure on land, energy and other natural resources, while addressing the needs of the world’s poorest.”

Regional snapshots

The US (4th overall) and Canada (18th globally), have particularly sophisticated financial markets and intensity of venture capital activity, which help stimulate private-sector economic activity.

The US strengths also include the presence of high quality universities and firms conducting global R&D, quality of scientific publications, software spending, and the state of its innovation clusters.

Canada excels in ease of starting a business and quality of scientific publications, while its political, regulatory and business environment draw top marks. Canada has logged improvement in its education system.


In this year’s edition of the Index, 15 of the top 25 global economies are in Europe. Europe is particularly strong in human capital and research, infrastructure, business sophistication.

European economies rank first in almost half the indicators composing the Index, and include knowledge-intensive employment, university/industry research collaboration, patent applications, scientific and technical articles, and quality of scientific publications.

South East Asia, East Asia, and Oceania

The Republic of Korea maintains its top overall rankings in patenting and other IP-related indicators, while ranking second in human capital and research, with its business sector contributing significantly to R&D efforts.

Japan, ranked third in the region, is in the top 10 global economies for research and development, information and communication technologies, trade, competition, market scale, knowledge absorption, creation, and diffusion.

China continues moving ahead in the overall ranking at 22nd, reflecting high scores in business sophistication and knowledge and technology outputs. The country had a strong performance in several indicators, including the presence of global R&D companies, research talent in business enterprise, patent applications and other IP‐related variables.

Within the Association of East Asian Nations grouping, Singapore is the top performer in most of the indicators, with a few notable exceptions including ICT services exports, where the Philippines leads, and expenditure on education, where Viet Nam leads.

Thailand’s strengths include creative goods exports and gross domestic expenditure on R&D financed by business, where it places 5th and 6th globally.

Viet Nam shows the second best rank of the region in expenditure on education and also performs well in labour productivity growth, economy-wide investment, and foreign direct investment net inflows.

Malaysia ranks well in high-tech imports and exports, university/industry research collaboration, and graduates in science and engineering.

Central and Southern Asia

India, 60th globally, is the top-ranked economy in Central and Southern Asia and has now outperformed on innovation relative to its GDP per capita for seven years in a row. The country has shown improvement in most areas, including in infrastructure, business sophistication, knowledge and technology and creative outputs.

India ranks 14th overall in the presence of global R&D companies, considerably better than comparable groups of lower- and upper-middle-income economies. It also also surpasses most other middle-income economies in science and engineering graduates, gross capital formation, research talent, on the input side; quality of scientific publications, growth rate of GDP per worker, high-tech and ICT services exports, creative goods exports, high-tech manufactures, and IP receipts on the output side.

Iran at 75th overall, excels in tertiary education, ranking second in the world in number of graduates in science and engineering. Tajikistan (94th) is first in the world in microfinance loans, while Kazakhstan (78th) ranks first globally in pupil‐teacher ratio and third in ease of protecting minority investors.

Northern Africa and Western Asia

Israel (17th overall) and Cyprus (30th overall) achieve the top two spots in the region for the fifth consecutive year. Israel has shown improvement in gross expenditure on R&D and ICT services exports, while keeping its top spots worldwide in researchers, venture capital deals, research performed by business, and research talent in business enterprise.

Third in the region is the United Arab Emirates (35th globally), which benefits from increased data availability and shows strengths in tertiary inbound mobility, innovation clusters and ICT-driven business model innovation.

Sixteen of the 19 economies in the Northern Africa and Western Asia region are in the top 100 globally, including Turkey (43rd), Qatar (49th), Saudi Arabia (55th), Kuwait (56th), Armenia (59th), Bahrain (66th), Georgia (68th), Morocco (72nd), Tunisia (74th), Oman (77th), Lebanon (81st), Azerbaijan (82nd), and Jordan (83rd).

Latin America and the Caribbean

As the largest economies in Latin America and the Caribbean, Chile, Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina show particular strengths in institutions, infrastructure, and business sophistication. Chile, Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina perform well in areas of human capital and research such as the quality of universities, tertiary education enrollment, and presence of global R&D companies, as well as in information and communications technology, thanks to their high scores in government's online services and online participation.

The region’s rankings have not significantly improved relative to other regions in recent years, and no country in Latin America and the Caribbean currently shows any innovation outperformance relative to its level of development.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa draws its highest scores in institutions and market sophistication, where economies such as Mauritius, Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, Rwanda, and Burkina Faso perform on par or better than some of their development-level peers in Europe and South East Asia, East Asia and Oceania.

Since 2012, sub-Saharan Africa has counted more “innovation achiever” countries than any other region. Kenya, Rwanda, Mozambique, Uganda, Malawi, Madagascar and Senegal stand out for being innovation achievers this year, and several times in the previous years. Burundi and Tanzania become innovation achievers this year.

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