Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait lead the Middle East in overall innovation performance according to the Global Innovation Index 2013 (GII), published by Cornell University, the business school INSEAD, and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a specialized agency of the United Nations.
Saudi Arabia topped in the MENA region in Market Sophistication (Credit, Investment and Trade & Competition), Kuwait in Knowledge & Technology Outputs (Knowledge Creation, Knowledge Impact and Knowledge Diffusion), and Qatar in Creative Outputs (Creative Intangibles, Creative Goods & Services and Online Creativity).
The UAE topped in the MENA region in four pillars – Institutions (Political, Regulatory and Business Environment), Human Capital and Research (Education, Tertiary Education, and Research & Development), Infrastructure (Information & Communication Technologies, General Infrastructure and Ecological Sustainability), and Business Sophistication (Knowledge Workers, Innovation Linkages & Knowledge Absorption).
“Worldwide, innovation is increasingly seen as a powerful tool to strengthen the competitiveness and global relevance of corporations and nations,” said Bruno Lanvin, the report’s co-editor and Executive Director of INSEAD’s European Competitiveness Initiative.
“In the Middle East and Northern Africa, recent political and social changes have also underlined the importance of addressing the needs and expectations of populations in terms of growth and job creation, especially for the young. This year’s GII shows that, in this regard, performances in the region remain uneven, but innovation is becoming a visible and pertinent instrument for economic diversification, enhanced competitiveness and global integration in an increasing number of MENA countries.”
Under performing MENA countries can catch up with innovation leaders if they “learn” to innovate. This will require them to transform their innovation inputs (on which they perform relatively well) into marketplace results (on which they perform considerably lower) more efficiently, said Hatem Samman, Lead Economist and Director of Booz & Company’s Ideation Center.
These MENA countries can achieve this by strengthening and aligning their policies on innovation inputs—such as human capital and research—with policies that help translate them into tangible products and services—such as high- and medium-high tech output—to spur economic activities and create wealth.
Strong innovation hubs can provide an efficient platform for such transformation by facilitating knowledge creation and sharing, and by providing a bridge for the commercialization of ideas. As a result, more MENA countries can move up the innovation ladder towards innovation learners and chart their way into innovation leadership.
“In the Middle East, we are seeing governments focus on building innovation capabilities as a means of catalyzing the growth and diversification of their economies. For instance, many MENA countries are establishing innovation hubs in which large state-owned enterprise champions, whose business goals are aligned with the objectives of the innovation hub, are acting as the critical drivers of hub activities,” said Rasheed Eltayeb, Principal in the Public Sector Practice at Booz & Company.
“These state-owned enterprise champions have the talent pools to stimulate innovation, the financial resources to bridge the gap between research and commercial success, and the scale to create markets for innovative products.”
“Dynamic innovation hubs are playing a greater role in the Middle East’s innovation efforts, and are multiplying around the world despite the difficult state of the global economy. These hubs leverage local advantages with a global outlook on markets and talent,” said WIPO Director General Francis Gurry.
“For national-level policy makers seeking to support innovation, realizing the full potential of innovation in their own backyards is often a more promising approach than trying to emulate successful innovation models elsewhere.”
This article was first published in Saudi Gazette on August 5, 2013
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