Which countries are the most innovative worldwide?

Georgina Horváth
April 30, 2024
Reading time:
5 minutes

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) recently released the Global Innovation Index 2023 which offers key insights into the innovation landscape across 132 economies

The report provides important information at a time of rapid technological progress by ranking countries according to their innovation capacity and analyzing the dynamics of innovation investment, technological progress, and geographical hotspots of innovation.

Find out from our blog post which countries are the top leaders in innovation, including their most innovative sectors and companies, and the factors contributing to their ranking. Explore the significant role that patents play in promoting the global innovation agenda and the regions with the highest concentration of inventors.

Beyond the rankings

The WIPO creates its ranking by evaluating seven key pillars

  • Institutional and regulatory environment
  • Human capital and research
  • Infrastructure
  • Market sophistication
  • Business sophistication
  • Knowledge and technology outputs
  • Creative outputs.

The evaluation measures these pillars through a variety of indicators, such as the stability of a country's economy, the percentage of GDP that its government spends on education, the total amount of electricity produced in the country, and the number of patents registered by the country's residents. There are 80 indicators used in total.

The top 5 most innovative countries of 2023

Let’s find out which countries received the highest rankings, from the 5th to the number one most innovative country:

5. Singapore

Singapore has climbed two places to become the fifth most innovative country in the world. Singapore maintained its top ranking for innovation inputs, showing strong performance across a range of indicators in which it has traditionally been a leader. 

Singapore retained its top ranking in Institutions (institutional, regulatory and business environment), secured second place in Human capital and research, and maintained a third place in Business sophistication. Singapore also improved its position in Infrastructure, moving up three places to eighth.

On the innovation ranking of Singapore, from the 10 highest-scored companies, 5 belong to the Technology and communications sector, including the first and second highest ranked, JOYY Inc. and Flex Ltd

4. United Kingdom

For the fourth consecutive year, the UK maintains its fourth place in the Global Innovation Index. Its outstanding performance was recognized in the area of Creative output, including intangible assets and origin-based trademarks, where it was ranked second. Also ranked 3rd in the area of Market sophistication, particularly in credit and financial support for start-ups and scale-ups.  

Considering the highest-ranking innovation sectors, the portfolio in the UK underlines a diverse line. Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc. is the company with the highest innovation score, representing the Aerospace and defense sector. Continuing the ranking, CNH Industrial NV. is the second most innovative company from the Industrial goods and machinery sector. Although there are only two companies from the Technology and communications field in the top 10 rankings, when looking at the top 100 ranked companies, this is the sector with the highest number of companies.

3. United States

The United States ranked third, which showcases its innovation through R&D ecosystems and cutting-edge technology sectors. It received the number one position as a Global R&D investor, first in the amount of venture capital received, the quality of its universities, and the combined valuation of its unicorn companies. Notably, the U.S. continues to be the second leader in the number of patents filed globally, reflecting its central role in global innovation. 

In the U.S., similar to the previous ones, the Technology and communications sector is considered the most innovative, closely followed by the Pharmaceuticals and healthcare sector. The top 3 innovative companies are Alphabet Inc., Amazon.com Inc., and Meta Platforms Inc.

2. Sweden

Sweden has overtaken the U.S. and is now the second most innovative country. While it secured second place in the overall ranking, it particularly stood out in terms of Business sophistication, achieving the highest score and second highest in the category of Infrastructure. The country has the most researchers per million inhabitants and also ranks third in terms of knowledge workers. 

Although the leading innovator company in Sweden is Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson from the Technology and communications field, the top sector with the most innovators is the Industrial goods and machinery. The second and third highest-ranked companies are Assa Abloy AB (Construction) and Elekta AB (Medical Equipment).

1. Switzerland

Switzerland is leading in innovation for the 13th consecutive year, underlined by its high number of patent applications and commitment to high-quality research and development. Switzerland won by ranking first in both Knowledge and technology and Creative outputs.

Switzerland has a rich history of groundbreaking inventions, including Velcro, the coronary stent, aluminum foil, and the development of the World Wide Web. Their recent innovations are especially outstanding in the medical field, such as reproducing the human lung and the world’s first automated machine to produce customized skin tissue.

It is not a surprise that the most innovative company is F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd from the Pharmaceuticals and healthcare sector. Followed by STMicroelectronics NV (Technology and communications).

Ranking of the top 10 most innovative countries of 2023 by the WIPO Global Innovation Index.
Source: https://www.wipo.int/edocs/pubdocs/en/wipo-pub-2000-2023-en-main-report-global-innovation-index-2023-16th-edition.pdf 

Top 3 science and technology (S&T) clusters

Recognizing the importance of innovation performance at both local and national levels, the Global Innovation Index maps the world's 100 most important science and technology (S&T) clusters. 

Tech clusters are defined as locations where new products and production processes are created and additionally have an impact on multiple parts of the economy. S&T clusters are known for their ability to generate innovation and growth. These highly ranked clusters represent regions with the highest concentration of inventors and scientific authors

The spotlight on science and technology clusters reveals the geographical hotspots of innovation, with East Asia dominating the scene. 

Here are the top 3 leading regions in the field of science and technology development:

3. Seoul

Seoul ranks third among the S&T clusters from the Republic of Korea. The top patent applicant in the country is Samsung, which holds the second position globally, with the highest number of patent applications filed.

2. Shenzhen–Hong Kong–Guangzhou

Followed by dynamic centers in China (Shenzhen–Hong Kong–Guangzhou) in second place with the top applicants as Huawei. Huawei was the leading patent applicant in 2023 globally, with 6,494 published applications.

1. Tokyo–Yokohama

Tokyo–Yokohama with its unmatched S&T infrastructure, leads the global top 100 S&T clusters. The number 1 patent applicant in the region is Mitsubishi.

Top 3 science and technology clusters by the WIPO Global Innovation Index.
Source: https://www.wipo.int/edocs/pubdocs/en/wipo-pub-2000-2023-en-main-report-global-innovation-index-2023-16th-edition.pdf

These clusters not only excel in patent filings but also in attracting significant R&D investments, illustrating the strategic importance of fostering concentrated ecosystems of innovation for national and regional growth.

Key takeaways from the GII 2023

The WIPO Global Innovation Index 2023 unfolds a complex picture of innovation around the world. Key takeaways include:

  • Sustained innovation leadership: Switzerland, Sweden, and the U.S. continue their innovation dominance, with significant contributions to global patents and R&D.
  • Strategic S&T clusters: The prominence of S&T clusters in East Asia signals the strategic value of concentrated innovation ecosystems.

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