Barbados and Chile are the most innovation nations in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), according to the 2014 Global Innovation Index.
The Global Innovation Index ranks every country out of 100 based on its performance in a wide of range of subcategories, including institutions; human capital and research; infrastructure; investment; business sophistication; knowledge and technology outputs; and creative outputs.
Switzerland is ranked the most innovative nation on earth, followed by the United Kingdom and then Sweden. The United States is ranked sixth in the world. Barbados is the highest ranked Caribbean nation at 41st, while Chile is the leading Latin American nation at 46th. The least innovative countries in LAC include Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala from Central America, plus several of South America’s least dynamic economies: Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay.
Argentina and Mexico top the Global Innovation Index’s human capital and research subcategory, while Chile and Colombia lead in terms of infrastructure. Peru and Chile have the highest scores for market sophistication, while Barbados and Guyana are best ranked for business sophistication. Panama tops both the knowledge and technology outputs and creative output subcategories.
“Latin America and the Caribbean includes only upper- and middle-income economies, except for high-income Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Chile and Uruguay,” the Global Innovation Index editors wrote. “No countries in the region are among innovation learners this year; eight display below-par performances relative to their GDP per capita: Honduras, El Salvador, Uruguay, Nicaragua, Argentina, Ecuador, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela.” However, compared to the other regions, “Latin America and the Caribbean and East Asia and the Pacific are adding more people with a tertiary education to their populations than the other regions, and will therefore over time move up in the rankings,” the editors added.
Barbados, which has a population of just 300,000 and a GDP per capita of US$25,181, was rated particularly highly in business sophistication, where it was ranked 5th in the world, up from 15th in 2013. “Barbados ranks 3rd in patent families filed in three or more offices, 7th in joint-venture-strategic alliance deals, and 11th in the number of GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) takers. Although its position in human capital and research continues to deteriorate (from 35th to 58th), it improved in infrastructure (131st to 103rd),” the Global Innovation Index editors noted.
Brazil on the Rise
Meanwhile, Brazil, which has a population of 198.7 million and a GDP per capita of $12,221, was one of only four LAC nations to rise in the rankings in 2014. “Brazil is ranked 61st (up from 64th in 2013), 16th among upper-middle-income countries (up from 21st), and 5th in the region (up from 8th),” the editors wrote, noting that its strongest performance was in the knowledge absorption subcategory, while its biggest weaknesses remain in institutions, particularly in the business environment subcategory.
Brazil leads Latin America by a considerable margin in terms of the number of patent applications filed by both residents and non-residents, World Bank data shows. Mexico is LAC’s second most prolific filer of patents, while Argentina, Chile and Colombia are the only other countries in the region to apply for a significant number of patents each year.