Global Innovation Index 2017: Innovation Feeding the World

Author:Catherine Jewell - Sacha Wunsch-Vincent
Position:Communications Division - Economics and Statistics Division, WIPO

The 2017 edition of the Global Innovation Index (GII 2017), published in June, comes at a time of renewed global economic momentum. But investment and productivity levels remain at historical lows. Laying the foundations for innovation-driven development is more important than ever. Only by sustaining investment in innovation will it be possible to turn the current cyclical upswing into sustained ... (see full summary)


In the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2009, global research and development (R&D) growth fell but its worst effects were successfully countered by effective innovation policies. However, with investment in public R&D flattening and growth in business R&D slowing, there is no room for complacency.

Measuring innovation performance

GII 2017 measures the innovation performance of 127 countries. It offers policymakers a snapshot of the strengths of national innovation ecosystems as well as areas where there is scope for improvement. Now in its 10th edition, the GII underlines the global nature of innovation and also demonstrates that its ability to support national economic development is often limited by weaknesses in, for example, human capital, infrastructure, or market sophistication.

GII 2017 once again highlights the persistent innovation divide between high-income and middle- and low-income economies but offers grounds for optimism. It shows that an expanding number of developing countries are performing significantly better on innovation than their current level of development would predict. Of these 17 “innovation achievers,” nine come from Sub-Saharan Africa. Low-income countries, led by Rwanda, Uganda and Malawi, are also continuing to gain ground on middle-income economies.

Innovation is a driver of growth, so policy action to foster R&D and other innovation inputs and outputs is essential. But innovation efforts are not and should not be confined to high-tech sectors. That is why GII 2017 focuses on the many innovative advances taking place in the agricultural and food systems sector.

Boosting agriculture through innovation

Agriculture is the backbone of many economies and unlocking its potential through innovation offers a promising pathway to economic development. Many factors are fuelling the innovation imperative within the sector. Beyond growing consumer demand for sustainable products and the need for producers to drive down production costs, more global issues are at play. The world’s population is expanding. By 2050 global food demand is expected to be at least 60 percent higher than 2006 levels. And competition for natural resources is increasing, exacerbated by the effects of climate change.

The stakes are high, perhaps higher than in any other field, and the statistics are compelling. Around one in nine people in the world (795 million of them) suffers from hunger, with one in four living with chronic hunger in Sub-Saharan Africa according to the International Fund for Agricultural Development, World Food Programme, and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Against this backdrop it is more important than ever to support the...

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