UAE tops regional index for economic innovation

Gulf state praised for cluster strategy, but must improve on creative output - study

(Photo for illustrative purposes only)

(Photo for illustrative purposes only)

The UAE has been ranked as the Arab world’s most innovative country, according to an influential new report, based on its high-quality of infrastructure, strong government support and development of economic free zones.

The 2013 Global Innovation Index, produced by Cornell University, Insead and the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), ranked the Gulf state as the 38th most innovative economy on the planet.

Criteria of the study, which rated 142 countries, were based on factors including quality of universities, availability of microfinance and venture capital, as well as spending on research and development.

The UAE scored highly in areas including ease of paying taxes, online government services, general infrastructure, creative output and competitiveness. The country was rated seventh best in the world for cluster development, with the UAE known for its efforts in designating knowledge-based free zones, such as Dubai Media City and Two Four 54.

However, the state was down one place compared to the 2012 index. One area in which the UAE has lagged behind many of its peers, like other Arab countries, is in the output criteria, were it ranked 123rd in the world for export of creative goods.

Elsewhere in the region, Saudi Arabia was ranked 42nd in the world, one place ahead of Qatar, while Kuwait was ranked 50th and Bahrain 67th. Impoverished Yemen and war-torn Syria favoured less well in the rankings, coming 142nd and 134th, respectively.

On a global basis, the rankings were topped by Switzerland, followed by Sweden and the UK. Singapore was one of the highest rated countries to suffer in this year’s index, with it toppling out of the top three to eighth place.

The study encouraged national governments to develop hubs of innovation activity based on their own strengths, rather than try to replicate the successes of renowned clusters such as Silicon Valley.

“For national-level policy makers seeking to support innovation, realising the full potential of innovation in their own backyards is often a more promising approach than trying to emulate successful innovation models elsewhere,” said Francis Gurry director general of WIPO. “These hubs leverage local advantages with a global outlook on markets and talent.”

The index highlighted Dubai’s Internet City, the largest ICT cluster in the Middle East, and Singapore’s ‘Knowledge Hub’ as successful examples of executing this strategy.

“What happens at the sub-national level typically in clusters or among regions or in the city are at least as important as the countrywide type of data,” added Bruno Lanvin, executive director, INSEAD European Competitiveness Initiative and co-author, Global Innovation Index Report. “We see the emergence of these multifaceted, multitalented, multilayered type of clusters as an ingredient for success.”

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