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How innovative would you say New Zealand is, comparatively? Well, we have an answer, according to the Global Innovation Index 2013 – produced (since 2007) by economists from Cornell University, INSEAD and WIPO (the World Intellectual Property Organization.

This year, the report looks at 142 countries from Zimbabwe to Switzerland. Together, these countries represent almost 95% of the world’s population, and over 98% of its GDP. From Scientific American:

This year’s big-picture findings: R&D spending has rebounded around the world after suffering in the wake of the global financial crisis. The same high-income usual suspects—the wealthiest European countries in particular—dominate the top of the list. The BRIC nations—Brazil, the Russian Federation, India and China—all slipped in this year’s rankings. R&D spending is growing more quickly in emerging markets than in rich countries. And unexpected players such as Costa Rica, Uganda and Moldova are doing impressively well with comparatively little.

The diagram below shows how each of the 142 countries ranks according to GDP per capita and the Global Innovation Index score. If you’re looking for NZ, we’re in the blue bubble (underneath ‘leaders’), but disappointingly (if not surprisingly), we’re ‘Inefficient Innovators’, with an innovation ratio below the median. Not that we’re in bad company, of course :)

Image courtesy of Scientific American – the version it’s based on can be found on page 24 of the report. Click to enlarge.

Image courtesy of Scientific American – the version it’s based on can be found on page 24 of the report. Click to enlarge.

 

But that’s not the full story. We also rank 17th overall in the index (and third in our region), with a score of 54.46.

Global Innovation Index rankings 2013

From the Global Innovation Index 2013, pg xx. Click to enlarge.

 

So, I guess the question is: is that good enough? Should we do be doing better? If so, CAN we? And if then…how? What do we need to do in the next 5 and 10 years to become more efficient innovators, and to move up those rankings? One useful pointer, perhaps, comes not only from the writings of people like Shaun Hendy*, but also the report itself: connectivity.

In every aspect of these endeavours there is an underlying theme: connectivity. Connectivity lays the groundwork for empowerment and the framework for innovation.

- Osman Sultan

Myself? I think we can and should do better. Hell, we’re ranked first in ease of starting a business, and our small size gives us, to my mind, a number of advantages in terms of ease of access to people and talent, networks and so forth. Also, we have excellent beer and coffee, and that helps EVERYTHING :P

Yes, there are numerous disadvantages too, but I think the weightless economy would, if we focused on it the way we do our primary sector, allow us to leapfrog many or most of those.

Anyhoo, have a read and feel free to comment below! The full report is available online and as a download here.

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Sidenote: I found this interesting (if depressing) statistic in the report:

One disturbing reality that our research has turned up is a major fault line at the front end of innovation. Booz & Company’s most recent Global Innovation 1000 study revealed that just 43% of senior innovation executives and chief technology officers at nearly 700 companies believe their organizations are highly effective at generating new ideas, and only 36% believe they are highly effective at converting ideas to product development projects. Still fewer—one-quarter of respondents— indicate that their organizations are highly effective at both.

- Cesare R. Mainardi

On the other hand, what an opportunity! There’s got to be some lovely ripe low-hanging fruit in there, right?

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* Be nice to Shaun, Auckland. Otherwise those of us who’re sad he left Wellington will have to come up and Have A Chat With You, Mkay?