‘Innovation should not be a solution in search of a problem’
“We have seen many inventions that never made it to the market…as there was no demand or a real problem that these innovations were addressing,” reveals Bruno Lanvin, INSEAD’s executive director for global indices and co-author of the report, which ranks 143 economies in terms of innovation. “This is where there is a big difference between invention and innovation. When we look at innovation, we have to look at markets, at implementation and changing the lives of millions of people. Reality should be the guide.”
Reality is one of the ‘CORE’ principles – content, openness, reality and excellence – countries in the Mena region can follow to drive more innovation, he adds.
Content is a key factor. “You cannot think of having innovation where the content will be imported from other nations. Other countries are doing lots of great innovation, but the content and the nature of innovation has to be rooted in the culture,” he explains.
Having an open economy is also conducive to creating an innovative environment: “If we look at top 10 or 25 the top ranking countries in the index, such as Switzerland [which ranks number one], they all are open economies. The fact that you are an open economy, you are able to attract talent and ideas to share your own and disseminate your innovation with the rest of the world, is critically important. This [also involves] the openness of the mind, the ability to welcome cultures, take the best that they have to offer, to imprint on them what your own culture can bring, and from that combination [generate] new innovative ideas.”
While explaining excellence, he says: “Every single successful innovator in the world has been an excellent innovator. If we look at Switzerland, for instance, it is the only country among more than 140 economies that ranks in the top 25 in every circular of the [index’s] model.”
This year’s Global Innovation Index focuses on the human factor in innovation and the role governments and firms play in fostering creative individuals and teams. It analyzes countries’ performances based on 81 indicators and features sub-indices, such as innovation input – which covers the national economy’s efforts in enabling innovative activities – and output, which covers the results of such activities.
The UAE ranks number one among Mena countries and number 36 among 143 global economies. It also leads the Mena region in the innovation input sub-index, ranking number 25 globally. In terms of output, it ranks number 68 among the 143 economies.
The country also tops the Mena human capital and research ranking within the innovation input sub-index, which covers basic education, tertiary education, as well as research and development. Globally, it advances from number 24 in the 2013 ranking, to number four this year.
Apart from investing in education and other sectors to create an innovation ecosystem, the UAE is making strides in fostering entrepreneurship, according to the report’s section authored by du’s Chairman Ahmad Bin Hayat and CEO Osman Sultan. The UAE now has more than 10 incubators and accelerators for start-ups, which reflects a considerable increase from three in 2008, reveals the report.