Key driver: innovation ecosystems

Following the release of the annual Global Innovation Index 2013, Vision explores the types of environment needed to nurture emerging talent

The UAE is the most innovative country of the Arab World and the world’s 38th, according to the Global Innovation Index 2013 (GII), issued annually by Cornell University, international business school INSEAD, and the World Intellectual Property Organisation (Wipo).

The Global Innovation Index, which includes over 140 countries - thereby covering roughly 95 per cent of the world’s population, creates rankings by taking into account over 85 different criteria that enable innovation such as institutions, human capital and research, infrastructure, market sophistication, business sophistication, as well as what is created out of innovation: knowledge, technology and creative outputs.

“Beyond the obvious ingredients for innovation: public, private investment, education and R&D, there is an ecosystem that needs to be built around factors that may be more difficult to define and measure, which have to do with the fact that innovation is not just the result of innovation, but it’s also a mindset,” explained Bruno Lanvin, Executive Director of INSEAD’s European Competitiveness Initiative and co-author of the GII report.

This year, despite the economic crisis, global research and development expenses exceeded the levels seen before the credit crunch of 2008 in most countries, the report stressed. This shows that innovation is perceived as increasingly important in driving the economy forward.

In the wake of the credit crunch, the OECD and the World Bank identified innovation as critical not just for developed countries in sustaining growth, but also in helping emerging economies and developing countries catch up with the former.

In a 2009 report entitled Innovation and Growth: Chasing a Moving Frontier, the institutions argued that the financial crisis had affected innovation in several ways: research and development (R&D) spending cuts, loss of human capital and greater aversion to risk-taking.

“Innovation has always been the key driver of economic growth of OECD countries. As the international flows of trade, capital and labour have expanded across the global marketplace, the competitiveness and prosperity of high-income economies have come to rely on their innovation capability. They innovate to become more competitive and reap productivity gains,” the report said.

One of the key attributes of innovation is that a by-product of innovation is… even more innovation. In the UAE, where existing infrastructures and human capital are providing the right environment for innovation to blossom, the future of innovation is bright. 

“The socioeconomic momentum created in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the last few decades makes the country very well positioned to continue to attract a flow of intellectual capital, establishing itself as a hub for innovation in this part of the world,” said Omar Sulton, CEO of local telecoms operator du, one of the GII report’s partners. Wherever it happens, one thing is apparent – innovation creates favourable conditions, attracting more capital and more entrepreneurs, and spurring a virtuous cycle.