The Top 10 Most Innovative Countries in the World

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Senior Entrepreneurship Writer at CNBC
3 min read

Is chocolate the best fuel for creativity?

For the fourth year in a row, Switzerland has been named the most innovative country in the world, according to the newest version of a report published by Cornell University, the World Intellectual Property Organization and graduate school INSEAD. The report has been coming out annually since 2007.

If not chocolate, the secret sauce to driving innovation surely must be talent. To compete on the global scale, countries need their best minds to be getting the best class in education and then working on their home turf -- not abroad.

Related: We Have Lost Sight of the Real Meaning of Innovation

Here’s a look at the top 10 list, with the previous year’s ranking in parenthesis.

  1. Switzerland (No. 1 in 2013)
  2. United Kingdom (3)
  3. Sweden (2)
  4. Finland (6)
  5. Netherlands (4)
  6. United States of America (5)
  7. Singapore (8)
  8. Denmark (9)
  9. Luxembourg (12)
  10. Hong Kong (China) (7)

The ranking surveys 143 economies around the world, using 81 indicators ranging from information and communication technologies; business sophistication such as knowledge workers, innovation linkages and knowledge absorption; and innovation outputs such as creative goods and services and online creativity.

The bottom line to driving innovation is smart people. But for nations looking to up their innovation ranking, developing talent requires complicated strategy.

“As innovation becomes a global game, a growing number of emerging economies are confronted with complex issues whereby ‘brain gain’ can only be generated through a delicate balance between talents outflows (e.g. citizens seeking an education abroad) and inflows (whereby high performers return home to innovate and create local jobs, and diasporas contribute to national competitiveness),” says Bruno Lanvin, co-author of the report and executive director at INSEAD.

Related: Is Competition a Catalyst for Innovation?

While the same economies included in the top 10 and top 25 rankings remain by and large the same, Lanvin says that he has observed “encouraging signs” that emerging economies are improving their ability to keep talent.

As businesses become more connected online and global travel becomes more common, innovation is going to increasingly happen across geographical borders, Lanvin says.

“Innovation and sustainable growth go hand in hand. In a boundary-less world such as ours, connected innovation is increasingly gaining prominence,” Osman Sultan, CEO of Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company, says in the report. “This is being fuelled [sic] by a more collaborative approach, challenging conventional methodologies and freeing-up efficiencies thereby benefitting everybody.”

Related: Radicals & Visionaries: Invention vs. Innovation

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