Tokyo-Yokohama beats Silicon Valley in innovation ranking

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  • Four of the top five innovation clusters are from the Asia-Pacific region
  • Most of the patent filings are on digital communication and computer technology
  • Innovation is a mix of talented people, ideas, financial resources and markets

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[MANILA] Four Asian hubs and one US hub are named as the five most innovative clusters worldwide based on number of patent filings, says a new World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) report.
The Tokyo-Yokohama cluster in Japan leads the ranking (94,079 patent filings), followed by Shenzhen-Hong Kong (41,218 filings), San Jose-San Francisco (California's Silicon Valley) in the US (34,324 filings), Seoul cluster in South Korea (34,324 filings) and the Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto cluster in Japan (23,512 filings).  
Of nearly one million patent filings recorded in 2011—2015, these five clusters had the most submissions — highlighting the increasingly vital role local clusters play in fostering global innovation, says Kyle Bergquist, WIPO data analyst and report author.

“This research is the first step to identify where innovation is happening and it aims to recognise new, alternative models of innovation outside the classic Silicon Valley model.”

Kyle Bergquist, World Intellectual Property Organisation 

“This research is the first step to identify where innovation is happening and it aims to recognise new, alternative models of innovation outside the classic Silicon Valley model,” Bergquist tells SciDev.Net. “There is a clustering [effect] in innovation in the same ways cities form in countries and regions. The ranking aims to help guide researchers and policy makers to understand what drives innovation at the local level.”
High-performing Asian clusters submitted numerous patent filings in digital communication, computer technology and electrical machinery industries. Private company researchers also filed more patents related to their industry applications than academic researchers, based on the report.
“These big technology fields generally require patent filings as a strategic option for innovation and to protect intellectual property rights,” says Bergquist.
Notably, the number of patent filings by the Tokyo-Yokohama cluster is more than double of that of second placer Shenzhen-Hong Kong.
Recognising that patent filings is only one way of measuring innovation, Bergquist says. The next phase will add more variables, such as the cluster’s economic activity (based on satellite images of light maps), publication of patents filed in peer-reviewed journals, population density, and research manpower and funding.

Bruno Lanvin, executive director for global indices at Singapore-based INSEAD and formerly with the World Economic Forum and World Bank, says “there is a strong need to focus on institutions, infrastructure and human capital” to promote regional cooperation, especially for smaller economies engaged in innovation.
“Innovation is not only a mindset but also an ecosystem. It is not sufficient to spend significant resources on research and development (public or private) to rank as a top innovator. Successful innovation is a combination of four elements: people, ideas, financial resources and markets,” explains Lanvin.
Of the four elements, talent is the most vital and countries with higher innovation capacity are those that funnel continuous investments into nurturing talent, adds Lanvin.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Asia & Pacific desk.

Top 10 Most Innovative Clusters Worldwide

Rank Cluster Name Country Number of Patent Filings Largest Patent Applicant Main Field of Technology (where patents are filed most by cluster
1 Tokyo-Yokohama Cluster Japan 94,079 Mitsubishi Electric Electrical, machinery, apparatus, energy
2 Shenzhen-Hong Kong (China) Cluster China 41,218 ZTE Corporation Digital communication
3 San Jose-San Francisco Cluster US 34,324 Google Computer technology
4 Seoul Cluster South Korea 34,187 LG Electronics Digital communication
5 Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto Cluster Japan 23,512 Murata Manufacturing Electrical, machinery, apparatus, energy
6 San Diego, CA Cluster US 16,908 Qualcomm Digital communication
7 Beijing Cluster China 15,185 BOE Technology Group Digital communication
8 Boston-Cambridge   MA Cluster US 13,819 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Pharmaceuticals
9 Nagoya Cluster Japan 13,515 Toyota Transport
10 Paris Cluster France 13,461 L'Oréal Transport