By Dave Bryan
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — A commitment to investment in universities and research has enabled China to join the world’s top 25 most innovative economies for the first time, according to a new report co-sponsored by the United Nations’ intellectual property organization.
Switzerland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States and Finland were the top five most innovative economies in the world, according to the report. Criteria analyzed include the quality of a country’s top universities, the number of scientific publications and the number of international patent filings.
Francis Gurry, director general of the U.N.’s World Intellectual Property Organization, said at a news conference announcing the findings that China has made a commitment to making innovation a key part of its economic strategy and as a result its capacity for innovation has improved greatly.
“Innovation assumes particular significance because it opens up new avenues of growth,’’ he said.
Report co-editor Soumitra Dutta, a dean and professor at Cornell University, said China has invested tremendously in education and there is now an enormous increase in qualified Chinese graduates. He said there has also been a lot of investment in innovation in Chinese institutions and organizations.
“Given all the strategic focus China has put on innovation, innovation is right there in the national plan,’’ he said.
The annual report on economic innovation, called the Global Innovation Index, prepares profiles on 128 countries. It’s jointly sponsored by WIPO, Cornell University and INSEAD, a leading international graduate business school. It is a tool for business executives and policy makers.
The report released Aug. 15 found that despite China’s rise, there is an “innovation divide’’ between developed and developing countries. However, there is increasing awareness among policymakers everywhere that fostering innovation is crucial to a vibrant, competitive economy.
Before the 2009 financial crisis, money spent annually on research and development around the world was growing at an annual pace of approximately 7 percent. The report found however that global R&D grew by only 4 percent in 2014.
The five countries at the bottom of the list were Niger, Zambia, Togo, Guinea, and Yemen.
Bruno Lanvin, the report’s co-editor and executive director of INSEAD, said the fact that China is now in the top 25 shows that a “middle-income’’ country can break into the top 25 if there is committed investment in research and development and other areas related to innovation. He called China a “harbinger’’ of change.