By DAVID MYTON

The 2018 Global Innovation Index report is now in circulation and once again the annual update reveals a not-too-bad-but-not-spectacular performance by Australia.

This year Australia ranks at No 20 in the world, up from 23 last year, with Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden, UK, Singapore, US, Finland, Denmark, Germany and Ireland making up the top 10, with Israel and South Korea close behind.

The report also marks the “continued advancement” of China, which has figured in the top 25 since 2016 and this year comes in at 17.

China’s “innovation prowess”, it says, is becoming evident in areas such as growth in global R&D companies, high-tech imports, the quality of its publications, and tertiary enrolment.

“In absolute values, and in areas such as R&D expenditures and the number of researchers, patents, and publications, China is now 1st or 2nd in the world, with volumes that overshadow most high income economies,” it says.

Serious policy ambition

The report notes that innovation and research and development “are a serious policy ambition in most developed and developing economies and in all world regions”, with global R&D expenditures more than doubling between 1996 and 2016.

“Businesses increasingly account for most R&D investments,” it adds.

The report observes that “despite significant investment in innovation inputs, some economies do not generate a corresponding level of innovation outputs”.

“Among high-income countries, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, and also Hungary stand out for producing many outputs for their given level of inputs,” says the report.

However, “Singapore, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong (China), Canada, New Zealand, and Norway, as well as many resource-rich economies such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Trinidad and Tobago stand out as high-income economies that … tend to perform worse”.

The report identified Australia as being strong in human capital and research capabilities, but less strong in areas including innovation linkages and university and industry research collaboration.

R&D new momentum

The report also notes that today R&D is no longer the preserve “of a few high-income economies such as the US, Japan, and certain European countries”.

“R&D is now a common pursuit or, at a minimum, a serious policy ambition in most economies – including those in Asia where R&D has new momentum.”

Last year, Innovation and Science Australia’s report to the Australian Government Australia 2030: Prosperity through Innovation made 30 recommendations aimed at boosting Australia’s economy through improving its ability to innovate.

The report identified as an “imperative” the need to improve research and development effectiveness by increasing translation and commercialisation of research.

Despite some positive policy changes, it said, more needs to be done to break down barriers between the research sector and industry, and to build stronger connections.

And the Australian Innovation System Report 2017 from the Office of the Chief Economist showed that “indicators from a variety of sources” suggest Australia ranks low on most OECD collaboration measures.

“Using the broadest scope of collaboration activity, which includes collaboration for purposes other than innovation, it is estimated that 86.3 per cent of Australia’s innovation-active businesses undertook no collaboration at all in 2015-16,” it said.

Further reading

Australian Government response to Innovation and Science Australia’s Australia 2030: Prosperity through Innovation

Department of Industry, Innovation and Science Boosting Innovation and Science

Global Innovation Index press conference (video)