Swiss ingenuity and rising underdogs revealed in 2017 Innovation Index

For the seventh consecutive year, Switzerland is the most innovative country in the world, according to the 2017 Global Innovation Index. The rankings also showcase the efforts of rising leaders, with India and China climbing three and six spots on the list, respectively.

Mark Schiefelbein/AP
Visitors look at a model of China's Tiangong-1 space station at the China Beijing International High-Tech Expo in Beijing, Saturday, June 10, 2017. Global Innovation Index results show that countries with rapidly growing economies – such as China and India – are rising in the ranks of innovative nations.

Emerging markets are climbing up the ranks of the world's most innovative nations, an annual United Nations survey showed on Thursday, although wealthy Western countries led by Switzerland still dominate the top spots.

The annual UN survey of 128 countries showed China rose three spots to 22nd place on the list, far ahead of other developing countries.

Switzerland has topped the list every year since 2011, followed this year by Sweden, the Netherlands, the United States, and the United Kingdom, while the United Arab Emirates, Vietnam and Kuwait were some of the biggest risers.

"Switzerland is the gold medallist once again, and that's seven years running, so that's quite an outstanding performance," Francis Gurry, head of the UN World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), told a news conference.

The Global Innovation Index is produced jointly by WIPO and two business schools – INSEAD and the SC Johnson College of Business at Cornell University, and seeks to shed light on countries' competitiveness based on 81 indicators.

"What's important for us is to see the gaps in the scores," said Soumitra Dutta, dean of Cornell Business School.

One country, India, was taking that lesson seriously, creating its own state-level index to try to create competition for investment and spur innovation nationally, he added.

India rose six places to 60th in this year's rankings, the 10th edition, outperforming relative to its economic strength for the seventh year running. But it remained badly let down by its bureaucracy and infrastructure.

China's weak spots included tertiary education, the regulatory environment, creative media and protection of minority investors. But in many areas, such as high-tech exports, industrial design and business sophistication, it punched far above its weight.

The index takes in factors including political environment, education, infrastructure and business sophistication. This year's report also reviews the state of innovation in agriculture and food systems across sectors and geographies.

Mr. Gurry said it was premature to gauge what impact President Trump's policies and Britain's decision to leave the European Union might have on their rankings, but international openness was key to fostering innovation.

"Will the tendencies that are out there for protectionism have an impact on that? Regrettably perhaps for today's purposes it's too early to say but it's something that we should be very concerned about," he said.

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