Africa: Developing Nations Hailed As Most-Efficient Innovators

Developing countries are the most efficient innovators, achieving results in areas such as scientific research, infrastructure and technology production with relatively low inputs, a report indicates.

But an “innovation divide” persists because overall innovation levels still lag well behind those of richer nations, according to ‘The Global Innovation Index 2013’, launched this week (1 July) at the High Level Segment of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), in Geneva, Switzerland.

The annual report, published by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Cornell University in the US and global business school INSEAD. It analyses the inputs – elements of the national economy that enable innovative activities – and innovation outputs of 142 national innovation systems based on seven indicators.

These are: institutional frameworks for fostering business and growth; human capital and research; infrastructure, including information and communications technologies and environmental sustainability; market sophistication; business sophistication; knowledge and technology outputs; and creative outputs.

By measuring the ratio between innovation inputs and outputs on these indicators, the index found that eight developing nations – Mali, Guinea, Swaziland, Indonesia, Nigeria, Kuwait, Costa Rica and Venezuela – are among the top ten most efficient innovators. This is up from four developing nations last year.

The results show that despite weaknesses – above all for the indicators related to institutional frameworks and market sophistication – poor nations were capable of achieving remarkable innovation outputs, says Sacha Wunsch-Vincent, a senior economist at WIPO and an author of the report.

“This is testament to the strong adaptability of innovators in developing countries,” he tells SciDev.Net.

But a high efficiency score can still be achieved with low levels of innovation, so this does not necessarily signify a productive and healthy innovation environment, he warns.

Although numerous developing countries, including two of the least developed – Cambodia and Uganda – are making significant strides forward, overall innovation levels remain strongly linked to national income, the report notes.

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