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  August 29th, 2016 | Written by

Switzerland, Sweden, UK, U.S., Finland, Singapore Lead Global Innovation

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  • China joins the ranks of the world’s 25 most-innovative economies.
  • U.S. is fourth in 2016 rankings of the Global Innovation Index.
  • Global R&D grew by only four percent in 2014.

A new report published by the United Nations World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has shown that for the first time, a middle-income country, China, has joined highly developed economies among global leaders in innovation.

China’s top-25 entry marks the first time a middle-income country has joined the highly developed economies that have historically dominated the top of the Global Innovation Index (GII) throughout its nine years of surveying the innovative capacity of 100-plus countries across the globe.

China’s progression reflects the country’s improved innovation performance as well as methodological considerations such as improved innovation metrics in the GII, a WIPO statement noted.

Despite China’s rise, an innovation divide persists between developed and developing countries amid increasing awareness among policymakers that fostering innovation is crucial to a vibrant, competitive economy.

Innovation requires continuous investment. Before the 2009 financial crisis, research and development expenditure grew at an annual pace of approximately seven percent. GII 2016 data indicate that global R&D grew by only four percent in 2014. This was a result of slower growth in emerging economies and tighter R&D budgets in high-income economies.

“Investing in innovation is critical to raising long-term economic growth,” said WIPO Director General Francis Gurry. “In this current economic climate, uncovering new sources of growth and leveraging the opportunities raised by global innovation are priorities for all stakeholders.”

Among the GII 2016 leaders, four economies—Japan, the U.S., the UK, and Germany—stand out in innovation quality, a top-level indicator that looks at the caliber of universities, number of scientific publications, and international patent filings. China moves to seventeenth place in innovation quality, making it the leader among middle-income economies for this indicator, followed by India which has overtaken Brazil.

“Investing in improving innovation quality is essential for closing the innovation divide,” said Soumitra Dutta, dean of the Cornell College of Business, a co-editor of the report. “While institutions create an essential supportive framework for doing so, economies need to focus on reforming education and growing their research capabilities to compete successfully in a rapidly changing globalized world.”