Region needs to push harder for innovation

17 August 2016

Index shows UAE leads Middle East and North Africa region, but much more remains to be done

The UAE has improved its ranking by six places in the latest Global Innovation Index, published jointly by the US’ Cornell University, France’s Insead and the UN’s World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The country is now rated 41st of 128 countries, up from 47 last year.

The index measures innovation input such as political and regulatory environment, education, infrastructure and investment, as well as output such as knowledge impact and diffusion and goods and services.

The UAE ranked 25th in terms of input, but it is well down in 75th position in terms of output, which means its major initiatives to foster innovation, primarily led by Dubai, are taking time to produce the desired output.

Switzerland, which leads the index, had an average score of 66.28, compared with the UAE’s 39.75, which reflects the degree of improvement that the UAE and the rest of the countries in the region need if they are to become among the world’s most innovative nations.

The index was first published in 2007, and has since adopted an inclusive definition for innovation, which is “the implementation of a new or significantly improved product (good or service), a new process, a new marketing method, or a new organisational method in business practices, workplace organisation or external relations”.

The top 25 innovators are all high-income countries except for China, which wrestled its way to reach 25th this year. European nations accounted for 15 of the world’s top 25 most innovative countries.

Global Innovation Index 2016
CountryRank (2016)Score
Saudi Arabia4937.75
Sources: Cornell University; Insead; World Intellectual Property Organization

The report noted that there is a group of economies that performed at least 10 per cent below their peers for their level of GDP. All the six GCC states are considered high-income and uniformly performed below average compared with their peers.

This means that given their wealth, the GCC states should have performed better both in terms of innovation input and output.

This could change in the coming years, with Dubai now heavily promoting innovation. The leadership of the emirate has not only set ambitious goals, but is leading a cohesive effort to support innovation through an innovation fund, holding innovation-themed competitions and, more importantly, insisting innovation be adopted by all government agencies and government-owned enterprises.

For instance, DP World has not only launched a $60m venture capital fund, it has also pledged to look into the use of the Hyperloop One system for moving goods at the Jebel Ali port.

Such efforts are likely to pay dividends over time, but will have to be sustained, given that the region has come to the party rather late.

Innovation Live Summit – 21 November 2016

MEED’s Innovation Live Summit will serve as an anchor platform during UAE Innovation Week to bring government and businesses together. It will deliver a packed and a stimulating programme for 600 selected senior representatives attending. Find out more about the summit by visiting

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