South Korea has regained its crown in Bloomberg’s Innovation Index, while the US has dropped out of the list of top 10 innovative nations.
Korea takes over from Germany, which dropped to fourth place. The Asian nation has now topped the index for seven of the nine years that the list was published. Singapore and Switzerland each moved up one spot to rank second and third.
The Bloomberg index analyses dozens of criteria using seven equally weighted metrics, including research and development spending, manufacturing capability and concentration of high-tech public companies.
The 2021 rankings reflect a world where the fight against Covid-19 has brought innovation to the fore –- from government efforts to contain the pandemic, to the digital infrastructure that’s allowed economies to work through it, and the race to develop vaccines that can end it.
“In the year of COVID and facing the urgency of climate change, the importance of innovation fundamentals only increases,” said Catherine Mann, global chief economist at Citigroup. “Innovation is often measured by new ideas, new products and new services,” she said, but it’s their ‘diffusion and adoption’ that is the real metric of success.
Much of the Bloomberg data comes from before the virus crisis. Still, it’s notable that many countries high on the index –- like Korea, Germany and Israel –- have been world leaders in some areas of fighting the pandemic, whether it’s contact-tracing or speedy vaccination.
The pandemic has also spotlighted a different kind of breakthrough, one that has more to do with policy and organization than technology or research, said Nobel prizewinning economist Paul Romer.
“We should recognise that the available metrics miss important dimensions of innovation,” said Romer, a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business. “Officials in Wuhan showed for the first time that in a couple of weeks, it is feasible to test 10 million residents of a city for coronavirus. This was a very important public health innovation.”