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[MANILA] Member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) need to embrace innovation to drive growth and development as they move toward economic integration by 2015, say economists.
In the Global Innovation Index 2013 report released last month (1 July), ASEAN countries are still lagging, with Singapore being the only one ranked in the top 20 at 8th spot. The list is topped by Switzerland, followed by Sweden and the United Kingdom.
Co-published by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Cornell University and the France-based graduate business school INSEAD, the report ranked 142 countries based on their ability to generate and commercialise ideas. It also measured research impact — and not just quantity — and cross-referenced it with university ranking scores, patent families filed and documents cited in global research.
The Index ranked Malaysia in 32rd place, Thailand in 57th, Brunei 74th, Indonesia 85th, Philippines 90th and Cambodia 110th. There was insufficient data to include Laos PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam.
"The ASEAN region can benefit from identifying and strengthening local clusters as they try to be more active in the global innovation network," says Sacha Wunsch-Vincent, a senior economist at WIPO.
He believes ASEAN can use the innovation report as a guide to identify each member country's strengths and weaknesses, and to develop and connect clusters of innovation in time for a full regional economic integration, which has a target date of 2015.
Wunsch-Vincent says that ASEAN countries should identify strengths such as specific industries in which it can be a major player and focus on scaling-up key ingenuity; facilitate integration and collaboration between university and government research agendas; nurture wider international markets for ASEAN innovation products (not just the United States) while protecting intellectual property; and encourage collaboration between researchers and entrepreneurs to commercialise innovation and technologies.
Among the ASEAN member countries, Singapore remains a beacon of innovation, offering lessons for its regional and global counterparts, says Bruno Lanvin, executive director of INSEAD's European Competitiveness Initiative and co-editor of the report.
He believes that investing in people and talent is central to a country's innovation potential.
Lanvin says other ASEAN countries should analyse what Singapore has done in education and information infrastructure, and in making business more attractive to foreign investors and innovators.
The successes of Indonesia and the Philippines, for example in video-related products and software development, show that ASEAN countries have significant potential to move up the innovation ladder, he adds.
Link to innovation report
This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's South-East Asia & Pacific desk.