Global Innovation Index 2021: Innovation Investments Resilient Despite COVID-19 Pandemic; Switzerland, Sweden, U.S., U.K. and the Republic of Korea Lead Ranking; China Edges Closer to Top 10

Published by WIPO, in partnership with the Portulans Institute and our corporate partners: The Brazilian National Confederation of Industry (CNI), Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Ecopetrol (Colombia) and the Turkish Exporters Assembly (TIM).

Governments and enterprises in many parts of the world scaled up investments in innovation amid the massive human and economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Global Innovation Index 2021 showed, illustrating a growing acknowledgement that new ideas are critical for overcoming the pandemic and for ensuring post-pandemic economic growth.

Scientific output, expenditures in research and development (R&D), intellectual property filings and venture capital (VC) deals continued to grow in 2020, building on strong pre-crisis performance. Notably, R&D expenditures showed greater resilience during the pandemic-linked economic downturn than in previous slumps.

However, the impact of the crisis has been highly uneven across industries, according to to a new GII feature, the Global Innovation Tracker. Firms with outputs including software, internet and communications technologies, hardware and electrical equipment industry and pharmaceuticals and biotechnology amplified their investments in innovation and increased their R&D efforts. In contrast, firms in sectors heavily hit by the pandemic’s containment measures and whose business models rely on in-person activities – such as transport and travel – cut back their outlays, the tracker showed.  The GII 2021 shows that technological progress at the frontier holds substantial promise, with the rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines being the greatest example.

“This year’s Global Innovation Index shows us that in spite of the massive impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on lives and livelihoods, many sectors have shown remarkable resilience – especially those that have embraced digitalization, technology and innovation”, said WIPO Director General Daren Tang. “As the world looks to rebuild from the pandemic, we know that innovation is integral to overcoming the common challenges that we face and to constructing a better future. The Global Innovation Index is a unique tool to guide policy-makers and businesses in charting plans to ensure that we emerge stronger from the pandemic.”

In its annual ranking of the world’s economies on innovation capacity and output, the GII shows that only a few economies, mostly high income, consistently dominate the ranks. However, selected middle income economies, including China, Turkey, Viet Nam, India, the Philippines, are catching up and changing the innovation landscape.

Switzerland, Sweden, U.S., and U.K. continue to lead the innovation ranking, and have all ranked in the top 5 in the past three years. The Republic of Korea joins the top 5 of the GII for the first time in 2021, while four other Asian economies feature in the top 15: Singapore (8), China (12), Japan (13) and Hong Kong, China (14).


Global rankings

( All 2021 rankings)

  1. Switzerland (Number 1 in 2020)
  2. Sweden (2)
  3. United States of America (3)
  4. United Kingdom (4)
  5. Republic of Korea (10)
  6. Netherlands (5)
  7. Finland (7)
  8. Singapore (8)
  9. Denmark (6)
  10. Germany (9)
  11. France (12)
  12. China (14)
  13. Japan (16)
  14. Hong Kong (China) (11)
  15. Israel (13)
  16. Canada (17)
  17. Iceland (21)
  18. Austria (19)
  19. Ireland (15)
  20. Norway (20)

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The geography of global innovation is changing unevenly

Northern America and Europe continue to lead the global innovation landscape as regions by far. The innovation performance of South East Asia, East Asia, and Oceania has been the most dynamic in the past decade. It is the only region closing the gap with the leaders.

China is still the only middle-income economy that makes it to the top 30. Bulgaria (35), Malaysia (36), Turkey (41), Thailand (43), Viet Nam (44), the Russian Federation (45), India (46), Ukraine (49), and Montenegro (50) make it to the GII top 50.

However, only Turkey, Viet Nam, India and the Philippines, are systematically catching up. Beyond China, these larger economies have the potential to change the global innovation landscape for good.

“The GII shows that although emerging economies often find it challenging to steadily improve their innovation systems, a few middle-income economies have managed to catch up in innovation with their more developed peers”, says Former Dean and Professor of Management at Cornell University, Soumitra Dutta. “These emerging economies, among other things, have been able to successfully complement their domestic innovation with international technology transfer, develop technologically dynamic services that can be traded internationally, and ultimately have shaped more balanced innovation systems”.

New findings for the GII 2021

  • Investments in innovation reached an all-time high before the pandemic with R&D growing at an exceptional rate of 8.5 percent in 2019.
  • Government budget allocations for the top R&D spending economies, for which data is available, showed continued growth in 2020. The top global corporate R&D spenders increased their R&D expenditures by around 10 percent in 2020, with 60 percent of these R&D-intensive firms reporting an increase.
  • The number VC deals grew by 5.8 percent in 2020, exceeding the average growth rate of the past 10 years. Strong growth in the Asia Pacific region more than compensated for declines in North America and Europe. Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean also registered double-digit increases. First quarter figures for 2021 suggest even more vibrant VC activity in 2021.
  • The publication of scientific articles worldwide grew by 7.6 percent in 2020.

“Among the key findings of GII 2021, changes happening among the top economies are quite remarkable. In addition to Republic of Korea’s spectacular jump (from 10th to 5th), the continuation of progress made last year by France (11) and China (12) are confirmed, as both are now knocking at the door of the GII top 10. Those three examples underline the continued importance of governmental policies and incentives to stimulate innovation. Altogether, COVID did not disrupt the trends identified in 2019-2020, as financing (public and private) continued to remain relatively abundant for innovative firms, even outside the health and bio-sciences fields,” says INSEAD Distinguished Fellow and report co-author Bruno Lanvin.

GII 2021 partners on innovation

  • Photo of Robson Braga de Andrade, President, National Confederation of Industry (Confederação Nacional da Indústria – CNI)

    “Innovation plays a key role in supporting sustainable growth and overcoming the crisis fueled by the Covid 19 pandemic. An ambitious national strategy, which prioritizes scientific and technological innovation to strengthen the industry, will make the economy more dynamic, promoting greater equity and social welfare.”

    — Robson Braga de Andrade, President, National Confederation of Industry CNI)

  • Photo of Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General, Confederation of Indian Industry

    “Nations need to strategize innovation to be able to face any future pandemic crisis. Investments in novel technologies, which include digital innovations, promoting stronger global collaborations, and pursuing sustainable innovation ecosystems will be key to safe-guard humanity from any similar adverse health crisis scenario. This will also minimise the impact of any future pandemic on our lives and the world economy at large.”

    — Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General, Confederation of Indian Industry

  • Photo of Felipe Bayón Pardo, Chief Executive Officer, Ecopetrol GroupTIM

    “The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the growing need to accelerate digital transformation and to build agile and digitally-enabled business models that can respond to uncertainty and global trends that have accelerated such as energy transition. The GII network will open the possibility of collaborating with leading actors in science, technology and innovation, to contribute in finding flexible, long-term growth models towards a more sustainable future that benefit people and the planet.”

    — Felipe Bayón Pardo, Chief Executive Officer, Ecopetrol Group

  • Photo of Gülle, Chair, TIM

    “The COVID-19 crisis has changed nations’ science, technology and innovation (STI) policies and led to prioritizing resilience, environmental sustainability and boosting innovation with new tools. To overcome the pandemic without lasting damage and reaffirm Turkey’s bright future, the Turkish Exporters Assembly enhanced digitalization, production mobilization, innovation-based development and new technologies”

    — İsmail Gülle, Chair, Turkish Exporters Assembly (TİM)

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Global leaders in innovation in 2021

Region / Rank
GII 2021 Global Rank

Northern America

United States of America


Sub-Saharan Africa1

South Africa


United Republic of Tanzania

Latin America and the Caribbean



Costa Rica

Central and Southern Asia


Iran (Islamic Republic of)


Northern Africa and Western Asia2


United Arab Emirates


South East Asia, East Asia, and Oceania

Republic of Korea






United Kingdom

1Top 3 in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) excluding island economies. The top 5 in the region includes Mauritius (1st), South Africa (2nd), Kenya (3rd), Cabo Verde (4th) and the United Republic of Tanzania (5th).2Top 3 in Northern Africa and Western Asia (NAWA) – excluding island economies. The top 4 in the region includes Israel (1st), Cyprus (2nd), the United Arab Emirates (3rd) and Turkey (4th).

Northern America

Northern America, composed of the U.S. and Canada, remains the most innovative world region. The U.S. keeps its 3rd place for the third consecutive year, and Canada goes up to reach the 16th rank.

The U.S. leads in key metrics such as patents by origin, the quality of its universities and the impact of its scientific publications and in R&D intensive global companies. It also hosts the largest number (24) of top science and technology clusters in the world, led by the San Jose-San Francisco cluster. Canada tops in venture capital deals and joint ventures and strategic alliance deals.


Sixteen of the GII leaders in the top 25 are European countries, with seven of them ranking in the top 10.

Switzerland remains the world’s leader in innovation for the 11th consecutive year, and together with Sweden (2) has remained in the top three of the innovation ranking for more than a decade. SwitzerlandSweden, and the United Kingdom (4) have ranked in the top five in the past three years.

A total of 10 European economies go up the ranks this year, with France (11) and Estonia (21) progressing notably. Finland (7) leads worldwide in rule of law. Sweden leads in patent families and co-leads in international patent applications filed via WIPO’s Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) alongside Switzerland, Norway (20) tops in ICT use and expenditure on education, while the United Kingdom leads in the quality of its univerisities and the impact of its scientific publications. Switzerland is the regional leader in innovation outputs, and in particular in patents by origin, and intellectual property receipts.

South East Asia, East Asia, and Oceania

The innovation performance of the South East Asia, East Asia, and Oceania region has been the most dynamic in the past decade, closing the gap with Northern America and Europe. Five economies are world innovation leaders: the Republic of Korea (5), Singapore (8), China (12), Japan (13), and Hong Kong, China (14).

Since 2013, China has moved steadily up the GII ranking, establishing itself as a global innovation leader while approaching the top 10. It boasts 19 of the top science and technology clusters worldwide – with Shenzhen-Hong Kong-Guangzhou and Beijing in the 2nd and 3rd spots, respectively.

The Republic of Korea went up notably in innovation results and in particular in indicators trademarks, global brand value, and cultural and creative services exports. Malaysia (36) has been hovering close to the top 30 for 11 years but has yet to reach the mark.

Thailand (43), Viet Nam (44), the Philippines (51) and Indonesia (87) have moved up between 5 and 40 GII spots in the past decade. Thailand and Viet Nam rank in the top 30 worldwide for the sophistication of their markets, and the Philippines does so in knowledge and technology outputs. They are now leaders in other key innovation indicators too. Thailand leads in R&D financed by business and Viet Nam and the Philippines are world leaders in high-tech exports.

Central and Southern Asia

India (46) leads the region and has consistently gone up the ranks since 2015, after making it into the top 50 in 2020. The Islamic Republic of Iran (60) and Kazakhstan (79) follow.

India becomes 2nd in the lower middle-income group. It continues to hold world leadership in the ICT services exports indicator, and holds top ranks in other such as domestic industry diversification and graduates in science and engineering. Bengaluru, Delhi and Mumbai are in the top 100 science and technology clusters.

Uzbekistan is among the most notable movers, gaining 7 places to reach the 86th rank. The innovation performance of Kazakhstan (79) and Tajikistan (103) improved in 2021 but has been less steady over the past years. Tajikistan takes the 2nd place among the low-income group economies.

Northern Africa and Western Asia

Israel (15), Cyprus (28), the United Arab Emirates (UAE) (33) and Turkey (41) are leading this region. The UAE has moved up the rankings since 2018.  Cyprus leads worldwide in ICT services imports and exports and mobile app creation, while Israel leads in R&D expenditures, venture capital deals and PCT patents. The UAE ranks in the top 5 in the number of researchers in businesses and R&D financed by the private sector. Turkey makes a big jump into the top 50 and continues to systematically catch up. It also hosts two leading science and technology clusters, Istanbul and Ankara.

Eight other economies in the region move up the ranks, including Oman (76), Egypt (94), and Algeria (120).

Latin America and the Caribbean

Chile (53) ranks first in the region, followed by Mexico (55) and Costa Rica (56). Only ChileMexicoCosta Rica, and Brazil (57) are in the top 60.  Mexico aside, few have consistently upped their ranks over the past 10 years.

Eleven economies in the region go up the ranks, with Argentina (73), Paraguay (88), and Ecuador (91) making the most progress. Brazil goes up 5 spots and achieves its best rank since 2012; and together with Peru (71), it overperforms in innovation for the first time ever. Brazil also hosts the only Latin American science and technology cluster in the top 100, with São Paulo ranked 66th.

Chile has the most-balanced innovation system, ranking well in indicators such as computer software spending, tertiary enrolment and new businesses. Brazil performs well in intellectual property payments and E-participation; Peru leads in microfinance gross loans and Costa Rica in cultural and creative services exports.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Mauritius (52), South Africa (61), Kenya (85), Cabo Verde (89) and the United Republic of Tanzania (90) are leading this region. Only Kenya and the United Republic of Tanzania have been firmly in the top 100 and improved their performance over time.

Cabo Verde reaches the 89th place, a considerable increase from its 103rd place in 2013. Nine other economies in the region move up the ranks, including Namibia (100), Malawi (107), Madagascar (110), Zimbabwe (113) and Burkina Faso (115). Rwanda (102) regains the lead position among low-income economies.

Mauritius leads in venture capital deals. Namibia tops in expenditure on education and South Africa in market capitalization.

Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the largest number of overperforming economies on innovation (6), with Kenya holding the record of outperformer for eleven consecutive years.

About the Global Innovation Index

The Global Innovation Index 2021 (GII), in its 14th edition this year, is published by WIPO, in partnership with the Portulans Institute and with the support of our corporate partners: the Brazilian National Confederation of Industry (CNI), Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Ecopetrol (Colombia), and the Turkish Exporters Assembly (TIM). In 2021, an Academic Network was established to engage world-leading universities in GII research and support the dissemination of GII results within the academic community.

Since its inception in 2007, the GII has shaped the innovation measurement agenda and become a cornerstone of economic policymaking, with an increasing number of governments systematically analyzing their annual GII results and designing policy responses to improve their performance. The GII has also been recognized by the UN Economic and Social Council in its 2019 resolution on Science, Technology and Innovation for Development as an authoritative benchmark for measuring innovation in relation to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Published anually, the core of the GII provides performance measures and ranks 132 economies on their innovation ecosystems. The Index is built on a rich dataset – the collection of 81 indicators from international public and private sources – going beyond the traditional measures of innovation since the definition of innovation has broadened. It is no longer restricted to research and development (R&D) laboratories and published scientific papers, and rather, is more general and horizontal in nature, including social, business model and technical aspects. For each economy a one-page profile is produced in which that economy’s performance on all indicators is recorded, relative to all other economies in the Index. The economy profiles also highlight an economy’s relative innovation strengths and weaknesses.

The GII 2021 is calculated as the average of two sub-indices. The Innovation Input Sub-Index gauges elements of the economy that enable and facilitate innovative activities and is grouped in five pillars: (1) Institutions, (2) Human capital and research, (3) Infrastructure, (4) Market sophistication, and (5) Business sophistication. The Innovation Output Sub-Index captures the actual result of innovative activities within the economy and is divided in two pillars: (6) Knowledge and technology outputs and (7) Creative outputs.

The index is submitted to an independent statistical audit by the European Commission, Joint Research Centre. To download the full report visit: www.globalinnovationindex.org.

Framework of the Global Innovation Index 2021

Corporate Network partners

Supported by the Portulans Institute, the GII Corporate Network comprises the Confederation of Indian Industry (the longest-standing corporate partner since 2008), the Brazilian National Confederation of Industry (a partner since 2017), as well as the Turkish Exporters Assembly and Ecopetrol Group in Columbia, which both joined this year. Their contribution is an important source of influence for the GII – firms and private sector entities are, after all, at the heart of innovation.

About CNI

The Brazilian National Confederation of Industry (CNI) is the official organization representing Brazilian industry. Since its founding in 1938, CNI advocates the promotion of public policies in favor of entrepreneurship and national industrial production, besides articulating with the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government, as well as with various organizations and entities in Brazil and around the world. CNI represents Brazil’s 27 state-level federations of industries, 1,276 sectorial employer’s unions, to which almost 1.2 million companies are affiliated with. In addition, it directly manages Social Service of Industry (Serviço Social da Indústria – SESI), National Service of Industrial Training (Serviço Nacional de Aprendizagem Industrial – SENAI) and Euvaldo Lodi Institute (Instituto Euvaldo Lodi – IEL). CNI also coordinates MEI – the Entrepreneurial Mobilization for Innovation, created in 2008 with the aim of embodying innovation into the strategy of companies operating in Brazil, as well as of improving the effectiveness of innovation policies and the innovation ecosystem in the country.

About CII

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) works to create and sustain an environment conducive to the development of India, partnering Industry, Government, and civil society through working closely with Government on policy issues, interfacing with thought leaders, and enhancing efficiency, competitiveness and business opportunities for Industry.

For more than 125 years, CII has been engaged in shaping India’s development journey and works proactively on transforming Indian Industry’s engagement in national development. The premier business association has over 9000 members, from the private as well as public sectors, and an indirect membership of over 300,000 enterprises from around 294 national and regional sectoral industry bodies.

With 62 offices, including 10 Centres of Excellence in India, and 8 overseas offices in Australia, Egypt, Germany, Indonesia, Singapore, UAE, UK, and USA, as well as institutional partnerships with 394 counterpart organizations in 133 countries, CII serves as a reference point for Indian Industry and the international business community.

About TIM

Turkish Exporters Assembly (TİM) is the only umbrella organization of 61 Exporters’ Associations, representing over 100,000 exporters from 27 sectors. Since its establishment in 1993, TİM has aimed to ensure the uninterrupted continuation of the dialogue between the public and private entities to direct the export policy and to increase the competitiveness of Turkish exporters in the international arena. The primary mission of TİM is to establish a positive balance of trade in Turkey – where exports exceed imports – by making Turkey’s top firms ready to compete with the best on a global level. Innovation and entrepreneurship are inseparable from achieving competitive advantage. Understanding these concepts and finding meaning in public and sectoral consciousness, as well as making an effort to have the capacity to export in the fields in which we are competitive, are all essential parts of TIM’s corporate structure and action plans.

About Ecopetrol

Ecopetrol is the largest company in Colombia and one of the main integrated energy companies in the American continent, with more than 17,000 employees. In Colombia, it is the leading company in the hydrocarbons value chain and, at the international level, Ecopetrol focuses on strategic basins in the American continent, with E&P operations in the United States, Brazil and Mexico. Most recently, with the acquisition of Interconexión Eléctrica S.A. (ISA), it has leading positions in the transmission business in Brazil, Chile, Peru and Bolivia, in road concessions in Chile, and telecommunications. We aspire to lead efforts for decarbonization and energy transition in the region, by applying innovation through 4 pillars of energy transition: competitiveness, diversification, decarbonization and TESG (technology, environmental, social, and governance), aligned with our goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. As the leading energy platform in the region, and the first oil and gas company to be a GII corporate network partner, we ratify the conviction of the role of technology as a catalyst of sustainability, energy transition and decarbonization – where innovation is an articulating axis. This partnership will allow us to have a greater position in an international level by being part of the discussion around the development of innovation in the country, the role of the company as the engine of economic reactivation and opening the possibility of collaboration options with leading CT+i actors in the network, all of this, to continue making the impossible possible for the benefit of the company, our stakeholders and Colombia.

Academic Network Partners

In 2021, an Academic Network was established to engage world-leading universities in GII research and support the dissemination of GII results within the academic community, comprising of:

Portulans Institute

Portulans Institute (PI) is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan think tank based in Washington DC. Founded in 2019, PI aims to develop cross-community knowledge and dialogue on how people, technology and innovation contribute to sustainable and innovative growth, and inform policy-makers by producing independent, rigorous metrics and data-based research.

PI brings together a network of thought leaders from government, international organizations, the private sector, civil society and academia to drive a business agenda that invests in people, technology and innovation for a prosperous future.

In partnership with the Portulans Institute, the Global Innovation Index (GII), founded by Soumitra Dutta and Bruno Lanvin, is published by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The GII has evolved into a valuable benchmarking tool that can facilitate public-private dialogue  across policymakers, business leaders, and other stakeholders. The Portulans Institute also serves as the home for the GII Academic- and Corporate Network Partners.


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