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29 July 2014

Europe Scores for Innovation 

Seven of the world’s 10 most innovative nations are in Europe, according to an annual survey comparing 143 economies covering most of the world’s population.

The Global Innovation Index, published since 2007 by Cornell University in the US, France’s INSEAD and the World Intellectual Property Organization, attempts to quantify countries’ ability to generate knowledge, technology and creativity – so-called ‘creative outputs’ from research, institutions, infrastructure, economic sophistication and human capital that lead to innovation.

The latest index ranks Switzerland as the world’s most innovative economy for the fourth year in a row, followed by the UK, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, the US, Singapore, Denmark, Luxembourg and Hong Kong.

What do the 25 top-ranked nations have in common? Excellent schools, good access to training, sophisticated business and market processes, and regulatory structures that encourage innovation and support intellectual property.

The researchers found that while individual nations’ rankings may shift slightly from year to year (Luxembourg moved into the top 10 this year, while Ireland moved out), the top tier maintains a healthy lead over the rest of the world. For all its industrial and financial might, for instance, China ranks 29th. On the other hand, emerging markets are showing unmistakable signs of improvement.

This year’s report highlights another trend – the migration of talent between the upper tier and the rest. The world’s leading researchers are more likely to work in the US and the UK, but the "brain drain" can also work in the opposite direction as people take their talents back to their countries of birth.

"Reverse migration trends are beginning to intensify," the report says, suggesting that the greatest competition in years to come may well be between the top nations hoping to keep their imported talent and the countries hoping to lure them home.