"Innovation is a global game," said Soumitra Dutta, dean of the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University. All of the highest-ranked countries come from unique locations around the globe.
This Global Innovation Index (GII) was created in 2007 to track innovation that had become increasingly more global and dispersed. The GII ranks the economies of 142 countries and uses 84 indicators to determine innovation capabilities. It is invaluable to policy makers, business executives and others desiring insight into the state of global innovation. This year's findings were determined with the help of Booz and Company, the Confederation of the Indian Industry, du Telecom, Huawei, and a 14-member advisory board.
[For inspiration, read 20 People Who Changed Tech: The Internet Pioneers.]
At the New York launch of the 2013 report, a panel of experts discussed this year's findings and the future of innovation. Despite global economic difficulties, innovation has not faltered. In fact, it has improved. Research and development expenditures have increased since 2010, said the panel.
Although wealthy countries continue to dominate the GII, some middle-to-low-income countries -- including China, Costa Rica, India and Senegal -- are increasing their outputs and outpacing their income-group peers. Notably, many improving countries have increased their R&D expenditure faster than higher-ranked countries, inspiring optimism for the future.
The theme of this year's report is "The Local Dynamics of Innovation." Regional innovation is booming. Countries are encouraged to focus on their own high-tech, knowledge-based or creative industries rather than trying to emulate others' success.
New York, where Cornell founded a campus focused on technology and innovation, is a key example of a local innovative hub. Dan Huttenlocher, dean and vice provost of the Cornell NYC Tech campus, described how its programs infuse academia and entrepreneurship. The Master's in Computer Science track includes business courses in which students practice public speaking. "With business classes, tech students will have the resources to conduct research and the capabilities to speak about the impact and business implications of their findings," Huttenlocher said. Such classes have made a "huge difference" in students' understanding, he said.
In the future, Cornell NYC Tech plans to include a technological MBA and other engineering and technology programs. Its goals are to attract new talent, create jobs and boost the economy of the surrounding region -- three goals common of all local innovation hubs.
"These localized innovation systems … go much deeper into the psyche of individuals, groups, and society," wrote Chandrajit Banerjee, director general of the Confederation of Indian Industry. Local innovation inspires members of society to contribute to their own economies.
Future innovation also requires consumer input, said Dutta. Companies should create an environment that welcomes consumers, who can participate by co-designing and co-creating in the product cycle, he said. Huttenlocher discussed an increase in iterative technological development and how customers are becoming involved early in the creation process. Barry Jaruzelski, senior partner for Booz & Company, described the importance of end-user insight in guiding product development.
However, the next great step in innovation remains a mystery, according to David J. Skorton, the president of Cornell University. "It's critical that we don't anticipate the next innovative success," he said. Knowledge of science is necessary to create a foundation for innovation -- people just need to apply it.