China is the only middle-income economy ranking in the top 30. Switzerland was crowned as the most innovative nation, ranking 1st in the index for the ninth consecutive year. Rounding out the top 5 are Sweden, the United States, the Netherlands and Britain. Singapore is the only Asian nation featured in the top 10. The Republic of Korea and Hong Kong, China ranked in 11th and 13th position respectively.
The GII aims to provide a more comprehensive definition of innovation, capturing its richness beyond traditional measurements. In other words, the rankings do not merely consider how many research articles were published in a given country or its R&D expenditures. Instead, the index analyzes innovation through a broad spectrum of indicators. That includes anything from trademark applications and education expenditure to high-tech and creative goods exports.
A Closer Look at China’s Innovative Strengths
The Global Innovation Index relies on 7 key pillars to gauge innovation in every country. Each pillar is divided into sub-pillars, resulting in a set of 80 indicators. A closer look at China’s 2019 performance for each of these indicators allows us to get a more precise idea of the country’s strengths when it comes to innovation.
In particular, China ranked first among 129 countries in the following areas:
- Creative goods exports, % total trade
- Trademarks by origin/bn PPP$ GDP
- Industrial designs by origin/bn PPP$ GDP
- High-tech net exports, % total trade
- Growth rate of PPP$ GDP/worker
- Utility models by origin/bn PPP$ GDP
- Patents by origin/bn PPP$ GDP
- Firms offering formal training, % firms
WIPO Director General Francis Gurry noted that over the past 40 years, China had constructed “a first-class intellectual property system and infrastructure with repeated messages from the leadership of the importance of intellectual property”.
In fact, patent application filing numbers were multiplied by 138 between 1990 and 2017.
China performed strongly in the Knowledge and Technology Outputs pillar, ranking 5th overall. However, it still lagged in the Institutions pillar, which assesses the political, regulatory and business environments, standing in 60th position only. A full analysis is available here.
In a Nutshell
Jointly published by Cornell University, INSEAD and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the GGI is a powerful benchmarking tool for business executives and public institutions to promote innovation-oriented policies. China already made headlines in 2018 as it cracked the top 20. Therefore, we can only look forward to seeing where the country will be headed to in the upcoming year and whether it will make a breakthrough as one of the top 10 most innovative countries in the world.