India has improved its ranking on the Global Innovation Index (GII) 2019 to reach the 52nd position, up five places since last year's rankings. The country has improved "in four of the seven GII pillars", namely Institutions, Human capital and research, Infrastructure Market sophistication, Business sophistication, Knowledge and technology outputs and Creative outputs. In fact, in the past five years, India has steadily moved up the charts from rank 81 in 2015, which is the fastest growth by any major economy.
"The performance improvement of India is particularly noteworthy. India continues to be the most innovative economy in Central and Southern Asia - a distinction held since 2011 - improving its global rank to 52nd in 2019," read the report. The country not only performed higher on Human capital and research, Market and Business sophistication, and Knowledge and technology outputs when compared to the upper middle-income group average, but also scored above the high-income group in Market sophistication. "India is consistently among the top in the world in innovation drivers," it added.
Published annually since 2007, the GII is considered a leading benchmarking tool for business executives, policy makers and others seeking insight into the state of innovation around the world. Policymakers, business leaders and other stakeholders use the GII to evaluate progress on a continual basis.
The GII 2019, co-published by Cornell University, INSEAD, and the UN's World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), features 129 country profiles, including data, ranks, strengths and weaknesses on the basis of 80 indicators. The report's release coincides with the news that Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft successfully carried out its first orbit-raising manoeuvre, after blasting off on Monday. The fully indigenous mission will be the first to carry out experiments in the unexplored lunar south pole region.
India not only ranks among the few lower middle-income economies that have achieved high impact for their innovation efforts, but also fares well in terms of innovation quality indicators. Only 18 economies outperformed on innovation relative to GDP this year, and are termed innovation achievers in the report. India, ranking 4th among the lower middle-income group, has been an innovation achiever for nine consecutive years. "India ranks 2nd in the quality of innovation among the middle-income economies for the fourth consecutive year, with top positions in quality of scientific publications (2nd) and in the quality of universities (3rd)," the report added.
The Indian Institute of Technology (Bombay and Delhi) and the Indian Institute of Science Bengaluru rank among the Top 10 universities in middle-income economies, which helped push up India's ranking to the 26th spot globally in terms of innovation quality. But we still have a long way to go where international patents are concerned.
The report further noted that in 2017, India was among the eight countries - following the US, China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Germany, France and the UK - that had accounted for 82 per cent of private sector R&D investments. The four Asian nations alone had contributed to as much as 40 per cent of the world's R&D in 2017, up from 22 per cent in 1996. However, India's individual share in world R&D expenditures has increased less sharply than the other middle-income countries or the Asian R&D powerhouses.
Broadly-speaking, the global economy may be losing momentum, but innovation expenditure has not suffered. In fact, "global R&D expenditures have been growing faster than the global economy, more than doubling between 1996 and 2016". In 2017, global government expenditures in R&D (GERD) grew by about 5 per cent while business R&D expenditures grew by 6.7 per cent, the largest increase since 2011. Moreover, the use of intellectual property (IP) reached record highs in 2017 and 2018.
So who heads the list of the world's most innovative nations? In the top echelon, Switzerland, Sweden, and the US lead the rankings, with the latter two moving up in GII 2019. Other European nations, such as the Netherlands and Germany, along with Singapore in Asia, remain consistent members of the GII top 10. This year, Israel moved up to the 10th position, marking the first time an economy from the Northern Africa and Western Asia region cracked the top 10 rankings.
Significantly, the report points out that the geography of innovation is shifting from high-income to middle-income economies, although innovation expenditures remain concentrated in a few economies. "Moving from a successful middle-income economy with innovation potential into an innovation powerhouse remains hard; an impermeable innovation glass ceiling exists that divides middle- and high-income economies," the report stated, adding that most of the drive to break through that ceiling comes from China and to some extent India, Brazil, and the Russian Federation.
China remains the only middle-income economy in the top 30, moving to the 14th spot (from 17th in 2018). It maintains top ranks in the region as well as among middle-income nations in several indicators such as patents by origin, industrial designs, trademarks by origin, high-tech net exports and creative goods exports. Notable moves in GII rankings this year include the United Arab Emirates, which reached the 36th rank while Vietnam (42nd), and Thailand (43rd) are getting closer to breaking into the top 40.
And India is now within kissing distance of the top 50 club. "India also stands out in the GII ranking of the world's top science and technology clusters, with Bengaluru, Mumbai, and New Delhi featuring prominently among the global top 100 clusters. Given its size-and if progress is upheld-India will make a true impact on global innovation in the years to come," the report said.
However, some relative weaknesses still persist, including Environmental performance, New businesses, and Entertainment and media market. "Finally, it is worth noting that while India's data coverage is among the highest in the GII, two important indicators-notably GERD financed by business and GERD financed by abroad-are still missing," it explained, adding that a significant number of indicators are outdated so the availability of complete innovation metrics would help obtain a fuller picture of India's performance. If these issues can be addressed, the Modi government's aim to break into the top 25 innovative nations won't remain a pipe dream.
Edited by Sushmita Agarwal