South Africa’s public policies aren’t doing enough to help foster globally competitive innovation, according to a recently released report.
The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation‘s (ITIF) Net Impact on Global Innovation report analyses the how much economic and trade policies contribute to and detract from innovation. It makes for pretty grim reading as the upshot is that South Africa is ranked in the bottom half out of 56 countries comprising almost 90% of the world’s economy.
The report examines 14 factors that support innovation domestically and have positive effects globally, such as expenditure on education and science and 13 factors that have negative effects, such as weak intellectual property protection.
The table below shows each country’s overall ranking according to total scores on contribution, detraction and innovation.
Expenditure on education per student
Countries with better education systems are better able to produce more innovation
The table below shows that countries that spend the least on this, ranked lower in the analysis, with South Africa ranking 48th over all.
“It is also worth noting that, globally, higher levels of education correspond to lower levels of unemployment and poverty, again empowering the world’s citizens to make constructive contributions to innovation and growth,” the report adds.
Research in science innovation
South Africa’s government also doesn’t produce enough researchers in science or spend as much as it should on research and development.
These are, as the report states, important factors as the number of people conducting scientific research is a strong measure of a country’s focus on research and development and the success of programs meant to encourage it.
Th government is making some progress however, such as the establishment of a national innovation fund, such as the Technology Innovation Agency.
The more countries support their domestic firms and other organisations in innovative activities, the more they bolster global production of innovation.
Countries with national innovation agencies create new knowledge about innovation that benefits not only themselves, but also the entire world.
“Robust innovation is essential for economic growth and progress. As countries increasingly vie for leadership in the innovation economy, they can implement policies that try to benefit only themselves but harm the production of innovation in the rest of the world” the report’s co-author and ITIF’s vice president for global innovation, Stephen Ezell, said.
“Or they can implement ‘win-win’ policies that bolster their own innovation capacity while also generating positive spillovers for the entire global economy. For innovation to flourish around the world, we need a system that is doing much more of the latter.”
Going forward, government bodies linked to innovation, particularly the Departments of Basic and Higher Education as well as Science and Technology, will need to consider such recommendations if we’re to do better in creating an encouraging environment for innovation to improve.
You can read the full report on ITIF’s website.[Image – CC Canadian Film Centre]