There’s Been An Innovation in Measuring Innovation


Innovation is one of those things. It’s hard to fully describe, but it can be awfully important to countries and economies. 

In recent years, there have been some remarkable innovations, such as car sharing and some less remarkable ones, such as airline baggage fees and the detachable dog sack (which allowed Fido to ride in a cloth carrier attached to the outside of the car). 

In March, panelists at the Wharton Economic Summit 2013 discussed the concept of innovation. Although they didn’t all define it in the same way, they suggested innovation is using something new or known in a different way, different time, or a different place; essential for companies to grow; useful; transformative; an approach that addresses a major want or need; not always easy to spot. 

It’s clear innovation means different things to different people. Cornell University, INSEAD, and the World Intellectual Property Organisation, which collaborate on the Global Innovation Index, said their benchmark, “recognises the key role of innovation as a driver of economic growth and prosperity, and adopts an inclusive, horizontal vision of innovation applicable to both developed and emerging economies.” 

They refined the index for 2013. According to The Economist

“Instead of objectively counting the inputs and outputs, it relies on nuance. For example, rather than ranking overall education, it looks at the top three universities, since elite institutions may be more important than the average. Instead of counting each patent, it tracks only those filed in at least three countries, which suggests it is a more valuable technology. And, rather than look at scientific journal articles en masse, the index includes how often they are actually cited.” 

So, using these innovative metrics, which countries rank the highest in innovation? Among rich countries, the United States, Britain, and Germany are one, two, and three. In middle income countries, China, Brazil, and Russia take top honors.