Is Singapore An Innovative Nation? How do we fare globally?

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By Richard Lim / Jocelyn Neo

Is Singapore An Innovation Nation?

It is a long-term asset that drives economic  growth and prosperity in nations. Its presence cannot be seen, but its effects are significant and readily felt.

“The more inventors we have, the more ideas we discover, and the richer we all are,” said Charles Jones, STANCO 25 Professor of Economics at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Therefore, cultivating innovation is not just an educational objective, but also a central economic policy for many developed countries such as United States, Canada and countries in  Europe. The same is also true for Singapore. At the National University of Singapore Business School’s 50th Anniversary Gala Dinner, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam stressed the need for Singapore to stay competitive and leave its global footprint by bringing new innovative ideas to the marketplace. Singapore’s future lies in being an innovative and value-creating economy, he said.

However, unlike other tangible assets, innovation is invariably left out of the balance sheet as it is virtually impossible to assess its value or quantity. This series of articles will nonetheless attempt the impossible by exploring the deceptively simple question—“Can Singaporeans Innovate?”

How Does Singapore Fare Globally in Innovation?

Globally, in annual surveys conducted by INSEAD and Bloomberg, Singapore has been doing quite well in the area of innovation.

Singapore’s ranking in the Global Innovation Index 2015 remains unchanged since 2014, ranking seventh worldwide and first in the Asia Pacific region with Hong Kong at her heels. The annual study—conducted by INSEAD, Cornell University and the World Intellectual Property Organisation—uses 79 indicators to look at 141 economies in the world.

The Republic of Korea topped the Bloomberg Innovation Index. This does not come as a surprise especially when Korean brand, Samsung, is well-known in the world for its innovativeness. The Bloomberg survey focuses on six areas: Research and Development, Manufacturing, Hi-tech Companies, Education, Research Personnel and Patents. Singapore came in third in Manufacturing and fifth in Research Personnel, as Singapore is investing heavily in innovation. Overall, Singapore was ranked eighth in the Bloomberg survey.

Infographics: Overview of Singapore’s Standing in Different Surveys

Global Innovation Index 2015.
Bloomberg Innovation Index.


Innovation Indicator 2015.

However, it is interesting to note that the survey by INSEAD measures the input and output of an economy. Input indicators are institutions, human capital and research, infrastructure, research and development (R&D), market sophistication, and business sophistication. Output comprises two indicators—knowledge and technology outputs and creative outputs.

As mentioned above, Singapore was top in innovation input due to the active involvement of the government. Conversely, the output for Singapore was surprisingly low, ranking at 20th place. This seems to indicate that the results of the investment on innovation was on par with or below expectations. For Innovation Efficiency, Singapore was ranked 100th worldwide.

Another survey by the Federation of German Industry (BDI) published its findings on Innovation Indicator 2015, ranking Singapore as the second most innovative country in the world. The survey looks at data from 38 sources to determine the innovation of the economy. Some of the indicators used include a country’s scientific and research system, education system, and state support.

Although these surveys focus on different areas, overall, Singapore still fares considerably well in the area of innovation.

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