Innovation hub ranking reveals global divide

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  • Four of top five innovation clusters are from Asia-Pacific region
  • India features in top 100 but other world regions lag behind
  • Innovation measures changing to reflect new models and variables

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[MANILA] Asia tops a global list of innovation hubs drawn up from the number of patents filed, but most other world regions don’t feature in the top 100, says a new World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) report.

China, Japan and Korea are among the seven countries with at least four hubs or ‘clusters’, which are based on the location of inventors.

The ranking was based on one million patent filings recorded between 2011 and 2015, and highlights the increasingly vital role local clusters play in fostering global innovation, says Kyle Bergquist, WIPO data analyst and report author.

“It is not sufficient to spend significant resources on research and development to rank as a top innovator.”

Bruno Lanvin

“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,” he tells SciDev.Net.

“There is a clustering [effect] in innovation in the same ways cities form in countries and regions,” Bergquist explains. “The ranking aims to help guide researchers and policymakers to understand what drives innovation at the local level.”

The report finds that India, which WIPO has cited as an influence in its rethink of the annual innovation index, has three clusters — fewer than in those countries that top the list but more than other developing world regions.

"The top 100 does not feature any cluster from Latin America and the Caribbean, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Northern Africa and Western Asia," write the authors in the report.

Japan’s Tokyo-Yokohama hub or ‘cluster’ 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 United States (34,324 filings), the Seoul cluster in South Korea (34,324 filings) and the Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto cluster in Japan (23,512 filings). 

High-performing Asian clusters submitted numerous patent filings in digital communication, computer technology and electrical machinery industries, according to the report. Private company researchers also filed more patents related to their industry applications than academic researchers.

“These big technology fields generally require patent filings as a strategic option for innovation and to protect intellectual property rights,” says Bergquist.

But patent filings are only one measure of innovation, Bergquist points out. WIPO plans to add more variables to fine tune its rankings, such as the cluster’s economic activity (based on satellite images of light maps), publication of patents filed in peer-reviewed journals, population density, 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