Top 10 countries for innovation: U.S. leads; Germany, Japan follow

GE's new Global Innovation Barometer indicates that global executives believe the U.S. leads the world in innovation. Behind it? Germany, Japan and China.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

If you want to innovate, the best place to do it is the United States, senior business executives say.

According to a new "Global Innovation Barometer" report from GE, which polled 1,000 senior execs from 12 countries, the U.S. is the clear "innovation champion" in the world, followed by Germany, Japan and China.

The top 10, along with the percentage of agreement, below:

  1. U.S.A. (67 percent)
  2. Germany (44 percent)
  3. Japan (43 percent)
  4. China (35 percent)
  5. Korea (15 percent)
  6. India (12 percent)
  7. Sweden (8 percent)
  8. U.K. (7 percent)
  9. Israel (6 percent)
  10. France (4 percent)

But is perception everything?

According to the report, a strong majority believe that innovation will take on forms not yet seen in history, will be localized to specific markets and driven more by creativity than by scientific research alone.

A similar majority believe younger generations have an "appetite" for innovation. Simple majorities believe that copyright laws, the speed of bringing products to market and existing trade regulations are adequate to foster innovation.

More interesting data points from the report:

  • 95 percent of respondents believe innovation "is the main lever for a more competitive national economy"
  • 88 percent believe innovation is "the best way to create jobs" in their country
  • 77 percent believe the greatest innovations will be those that address human needs, not just generate the most profit
  • Innovation seen to benefit communications, healthcare, environment, economy, transportation, energy security and education the most.
  • The countries that believe the most in innovation ("optimists"): Saudi Arabia, UAE, Brazil, India
  • The countries that believe the least in it ("pessimists"): Japan, South Korea, China

Reading between the lines, though, the battles will be over just what constitutes "innovation" -- and how it will be achieved. A solid 40 percent believe it takes a combination of individuals, government and universities, while 27 percent believe small and medium companies will drive it.

Just 19 percent believe large companies will drive innovation.

For "optimist" countries to achieve innovation, GE says financial support and R&D partnerships with universities is key. For "pessimist" nations, GE says IP protection, long-term private investment and partners are key.

If you're interested, here's the full report:

GE Global Innovation Barometer 2011 (.pdf)

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