Naissance or Renaissance? China enters the top 25 of the GII 2016

Monday, August 22, 2016

On August 15, the Global Innovation Index (GII) 2016 was released, benchmarking the innovation performance of 128 global economies across 82 measures of innovation. The GII theme this year is “Winning with Global Innovation,” looking at the rising share of innovation carried out via globalized innovation networks.

The GII 2016 top 10 rankings are:


Switzerland (No. 1 in 2015)


Singapore (7)


Sweden (3)


Ireland (8)


United Kingdom (2)


Denmark (10)


United States of America (5)


Netherlands (4)


Finland (6)


Germany (12)

The report finds that gains from global innovation can be shared more widely, as cross-border flows of knowledge and talent are on the rise. It also shows that there is ample scope to expand global corporate and public R&D cooperation to foster future economic growth. Yet, the findings also show that at the national level, innovation policies could more explicitly favor international collaboration and the diffusion of knowledge across borders. To do so, new international governance structures could also aim to increase technology diffusion to and within developing countries.

Stability remains at the top of the rankings. Switzerland tops the list for the sixth consecutive year, followed by Sweden (2nd), the United Kingdom (3rd), and the United States of America (4th). In 2016, the group of top 25 performers now includes China as the single non-high-income economy in that group. Such an accomplishment is in part due to methodological changes and in part due to consistently good performance, including the measurement of quality of innovation. “It is not something new we are experiencing…it is a renaissance rather than a nascence” noted Francis Gurry, Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) on China entering the top 25 in this year’s innovative rankings of the global economies.

Outside of China, the divide between the group of upper-middle-income economies and the group of high-income economies remains large, especially in the Institutions, Human capital and research, Infrastructure, and Creative outputs pillars. The divide only appears to be closing in Institutions and Business sophistication. Behind China, Malaysia (35th) and Bulgaria (38th) are the only two upper-middle income countries that are the closest to the top 25 group.

With regards to innovation quality—as measured by university performance, the reach of scholarly articles, and the international dimension of patent applications—several economies stand out. Japan takes the top position in large part due to patent applications, while the USA and the UK stay ahead of the pack, largely as a result of their world-class universities. These countries are closely followed by Germany, Switzerland, and the Republic of Korea. Top-scoring middle-income economies on innovation quality are China, India, and Brazil, with India ranking 2nd and China increasingly outpacing the others.

A number of low-income economies are noted this year as innovation achievers, performing increasingly well at levels previously reserved for the higher income groups. Sub-Saharan Africa stands out for the second consecutive year with six countries outperforming other economies at their level of development: Kenya, Rwanda, Mozambique, Malawi, Uganda, and Madagascar.

Innovation achievers demonstrate better results in innovation because they continuously make improvements to their institutional framework, have a set of highly skilled workers who operate in more stable innovation systems, show a better integration with inter­national markets, and display more solid channels of knowledge absorp­tion. These traits result in higher economic growth rates per worker and in more sophisticated local busi­ness communities that are attractive for foreign investment.

Access the full report, chapters on this year’s theme, country profiles, and data sets.

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