patent pending

Not Quite an Innovation Nation

CEBIT cloud man talking DPA
Turning talk into action to be more innovative.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Germany has been ranked 12th in the Global Innovation Index, which compares 141 countries to determine how innovative they are. It has moved up one place compared with last year.

  • Facts


    • While Germany invests 2.85 percent of its economic output in research, there are concerns that the ideas end up being used by companies abroad.
    • The German government wants to promote funding for start-ups, with state-owned development bank KfW planning to make an additional €1 billion available as collateral for loans.
    • One area in which Germany performed well was in terms of access to information and communication technology, where it ranked fifth in the index.
  • Audio


  • Pdf

Germany might be a land of inventors where patents are registered, but creative business is taking place elsewhere. California’s Silicon Valley is regarded as the creative center of the world – not Stuttgart, Hamburg or Berlin.

This view has now been backed up by the Global Innovation Index, in which scientists from Cornell University in the United States, the French business school INSEAD and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) compare 141 countries.

The good news is that Germany, the world’s fourth-largest economy and Europe’s largest, has moved up one place since the last test. The bad news is that it is still in only 12th position. Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Sweden, the Netherlands and the United States are all much more innovative.

The index takes into account 79 criteria including the amount spent on research, the number of patents registered, availability of fast Internet connections, political regulation and the cost of setting up a company.

Countries that fared particularly well include the United Kingdom, which saw barely any reduction in investment in research and development even during the recession, and where universities attach a lot of importance to partnerships between scientists and investors.

Sweden has been scoring well for years in almost all rankings of Europe’s most innovative locations, and invests well over 3 percent of GDP in research and development, more than any other member of the EU.

Switzerland offers political and economic stability, excellent universities, top-notch infrastructure and a flexible employment market, and has come top in the World Economic Forum’s index of the most competitive countries for the sixth consecutive year.

It is unlikely to be much consolation that China and Japan, two of Germany’s biggest competitors on the global market, fared even worse than Germany, said innovation expert Kai Engel from management consultancy A.T. Kearney, which offers advice on the index. “We should always compare ourselves self-critically with the best and continually challenge our own position.”

Want to keep reading?

Subscribe now or log in to read our coverage of Europe’s leading economy.