Bloomberg’s Global Innovation Index ranks S. Korea 1st, snubs U.S. at 6th place
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Psy performing "Gangnam Style," a reference to S. Korea's posh tech district. Photo Credit: Eva Rinaldi / Creative Commons

Psy performing "Gangnam Style," a reference to S. Korea's posh tech district. Photo Credit: Eva Rinaldi / Creative Commons

In its beautiful, infographic-heavy report, you can see which countries Bloomberg believes are truly innovative – and why the U.S. is falling behind.

Bloomberg‘s 2015 Global Innovation Index should give the U.S. tech community serious pause. In a beautifully displayed report, Bloomberg compares the world’s 50 most innovative countries by six measures: R&D expenditure per capita, gross value added by manufacturing, number of hi-tech companies, post secondary education levels, the number of research personnel per capita, and the number of patents per capita.

As you can see from the final results (though we encourage you to read the full index), the U.S. comes in 6th place, three places down from the 2014 ranking and five down from the 2013 report, which listed the U.S. at the top of the list.

The top five countries in Bloomberg’s overall ranking are the following:

1. South Korea

2. Japan

3. Germany

4. Finland

5. Israel

Snap shot of Bloomberg' 2015 Global Innovation Index. Image Credit: Bloomberg

Snap shot of Bloomberg’ 2015 Global Innovation Index. Image Credit: Bloomberg

Why the entrepreneurial spirit in the U.S. is heading south

Though the United States beats all other countries by a wide margin in the sheer number of hi-tech companies created in the U.S (China places 2nd in this measure, though it ranks 22nd overall), it lags behind on three key factors that seem more influential in shaping a country’s overall standing: R&D expenditure per capita, number of patents per capita, and post secondary education levels. South Korea leads in all three measures.

Beyond the gorgeous graphics, this year’s global innovation report differs from past years in valuing education more (while the 2013 report included education levels as a measure, the 2014 report did not) and letting go of productivity and tertiary efficiency measures in its ranking. This principally explains the United States’ decline in the index.

Still, it is quite shocking to see that United States’ post secondary education levels are not just behind the 50 most innovative countries, they are way behind: It ranks a measly #33 in education.

What makes the top five countries so innovative

While South Korea (#1) leads in R&D and number of patents per capita, both Finland (#4) and Israel (#5) rank highly in research personnel expenditure per capita, which helps get them into the top five. The inclusion of post secondary education levels and exclusion of productivity also help explain Israel’s rise from last year’s report, where it only ranked #30 worldwide.

Though Japan (#2) ranks only 29th in post secondary education levels, its high scores in patents per capita and number of hi-tech companies help boost its numbers.

The most confusing country in the top five is Germany (#3) which doesn’t seem to lead in any category besides manufacturing, where it only ranks fourth. The large size of its market must impact Germany’s score in comparison to smaller markets such as Finland and Israel.

In short, Bloomberg is boldly stating that investing in research and development, including education, is more important in the development of innovative countries than the number and strength of hi-tech companies a country has.

Featured Image Credit: Eva Rinaldi / Creative Commons

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Laura Rosbrow-Telem

About Laura Rosbrow-Telem

I am a social entrepreneurship enthusiast: This is what happens when a former social worker becomes a tech journalist. I mostly write about startups, technology, peace and justice issues, cultural topics, and personal stuff. Before Geektime, I was an editor at the Jerusalem Post and Mic.

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