Tech innovation investment goes up despite economic squeeze

Brazilian scientist in the Immunology laboratory of the Heart Institute (Incor) of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Sao Paulo, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, 17 March 2020. (Keystone/EPA/Sebastiao Moreira)

The pressures of the pandemic have pushed up innovation investment, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)’s latest Global Innovation Index released on Monday shows. Several middle-income countries are giving high-income innovators a run for their money.

What the findings show. Investment in research and development increased during last year’s pandemic lockdown, with a rise in scientific publications, intellectual property filings and venture capital deals despite the economic downturn caused by Covid-19.

The ICT, pharmaceutical, and biotechnology industries led this investment growth, with the speedy development of Covid-19 vaccines highlighting the power of investment at the cutting edge of innovation technology, according to the report.

“As the world looks to rebuild from the pandemic, we know that innovation is integral to overcoming the common challenges that we face and to constructing a better future,” says WIPO director general Daren Tang. “The Global Innovation Index is a unique tool to guide policy-makers and businesses in charting plans to ensure that we emerge stronger from the pandemic.”

Who are the biggest innovators? The 2021 top five innovation leaders are Switzerland, Sweden, the US, the UK, and South Korea. South Korea jumped from number ten to number five. In addition, China (in 12th place), Turkey, Vietnam, India, and the Philippines are becoming increasingly powerful middle-income innovators.

“These emerging economies, among other things, have been able to successfully complement their domestic innovation with international technology transfer, develop technologically dynamic services that can be traded internationally, and ultimately have shaped more balanced innovation systems,” said former dean and professor of management at Cornell University, Soumitra Dutta.