Global Innovation Divide: Can Investment In Innovation Bridge The Gap? 17/07/2018 by David Branigan for Intellectual Property Watch and William New 1 Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)The Global Innovation Index 2018, launched on 10 July in New York, has lauded the rise of China as a model for how other low and middle-income economies can advance on innovation. Amid this optimism, however, the global innovation divide remains in step with the global income divide, raising questions for how to bridge this gap. The new index shows signs of progress. Speaking at the Global Innovation Index (GII) launch event in New York, Bruno Lanvin, executive director of global indices at INSEAD, expressed “moderate optimism” based on the GII 2018 rankings. He stated that “innovation is key to addressing inequality,” and that “if we focus on bridges rather than on walls, we’ll stimulate innovation.” However, “[t]he global innovation divide remains wide, with high-income economies leading the innovation landscape and big gaps in terms of nearly all innovation input and output metrics between these leaders and other less-developed countries” (GII 2018, p xxxiii), according to the report. The GII measures a country’s innovation according to its performance in five areas of innovation input: Institutions, Human Capital and Research, Infrastructure, Market Sophistication and Business Sophistication; and two areas of innovation output: Knowledge and Technology Outputs, and Creative Outputs, according to the GII 2018 (see figure 4.1 above). The GII is a joint initiative of the UN World Intellectual Property Organization, INSEAD, and Cornell University. China’s rise into the ranks of the 20 most innovative countries this year highlights the potential for countries to advance their innovation rank in spite of their level of income. Lanvin acknowledged that “[c]learly, we have strong correlations between wealth and innovation performance, so rich countries are performing better in the GII than the poor countries – we cannot deny that. Does it mean that we have a growing divide?” “[A]ctually, we have signs showing that in many respects … the landscape is changing,” he said at the GII launch. “And, one of the most fascinating areas or groups of countries in which exciting change is taking place is the middle-income countries. This is where you find China, but this is also where the example is given by Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, etcetera.” “There are lessons to be drawn,” said Lanvin. “Sometimes they need to be adapted, sometimes they need to be re-created, but there are sources of inspiration that can be taken from anywhere in the world. And, big countries can also draw lessons from smaller economies.” Soumitra Dutta, professor and former dean of management at Cornell University, noted at the event, however, that there is not a clear correlation between the size of an economy and its performance on innovation. “What makes the key difference,” he said, “are the innovation policies … [and] the more diversified the portfolio – the industry and exports the economy has – the more successful the economies are on innovation.” Rwanda: Innovation Investment Rwanda received an overall GII rank of 99, which is considered impressive for a low-income country. But even more impressive is its innovation input rank of 73, according to the GII 2018 report. In terms of innovation input rank, Rwanda is on par with many middle-income countries, and is banking on the hope that this investment in input will bring about the conditions that will lead to improved innovation output in the future. During the “high level panel” discussion at the GII launch event, Francis Gurry, director general of WIPO, referred to Rwanda as a “shining example” of innovation. As moderator of the panel, he posed the following question to panelist Valentine Rugwabiza, permanent representative of Rwanda to the UN: “What is your view of Africa as a whole? Are we going to expect to see over the course of the the 21st century some of the rising development that we’ve witnessed in Asia in the last part of the … 1900s and the 2000s?” Rugwabiza responded saying that “regardless of the disparities that are there … the future is bright, and wide.” She explained that while there is a clear correlation between income and innovation, “there is no level of income that is a threshold at which innovation can happen…. For innovation input, Rwanda is among the innovation countries despite belonging to the low-income countries. So, it is possible.” Rugwabiza went on to explain the ways that Rwanda invests in innovation, including building “infrastructure, institutions and [a] conducive business environment,” and investing in the development of human capital. “It takes time to build the type of STEM [science, technology, engineering, math] resources you need to be able to translate your initial input to output,” she said. Speculating on the potential for a 21st century rise in African economies, Rugwabiza noted that “the age group of the African continent are much more open to embracing innovation.” There is therefore a “need to invest in the education system.” It remains to be seen how investment in innovation input will translate into innovation output for Rwanda and other low and middle-income countries, as well as the extent to which increases in levels of innovation could also lead to increases in levels of income. GII launch high level panel, Cornell Tech, New York City. WIPO Director General Francis Gurry on right. A Growing Divide? While innovation may be “key to addressing inequality,” as Lanvin stated, can it out-pace what could become a growing divide? Gurry explained that the GII holds up a mirror and uses data to reflect innovation performance. He noted at the event that “one of the disturbing things that we see, of course, is this … persistent gap between the high-income countries and the lower-middle and low-income countries in innovation performance. It’s a massive challenge for the world, and with the speed, the acceleration … of technological development, we risk … seeing this gap exacerbated, rather than reduced.” In response, Sweta Govani, managing director of Global Innovation Exchange, a global partnership of research universities and corporations to develop innovation leaders, noted that innovation is more than just science and technology. “When we think about LMICs… innovation there looks very … different,” she said. “So there is absolutely a divide, but there is actually a lot of creativity going on … that we can … look at for inspiration.” David Branigan graduated in May 2018 from the Studley Graduate Program in International Affairs at The New School. His research is focused at the intersection of technology, public policy and human rights. Image Credits: Global Innovation Index, David Branigan Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related David Branigan may be reached at email@example.com.William New may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org."Global Innovation Divide: Can Investment In Innovation Bridge The Gap?" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.