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The Geography of Innovation

BCG’s List of the World’s Most Innovative Countries
December 17, 2010 by Jim Andrew and Andrew Taylor
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This article is drawn from a larger BCG report, The Innovation Imperative in Manufacturing: How the United States Can Restore Its Edge, jointly developed with the National Association of Manufacturers and The Manufacturing Institute.

  • To win in global markets, companies must develop new products and services, new ways of working, and new ways of going to market.

  • Government—at both the national and the local level—must support these innovation efforts through effective policies.

  • Although still a top-tier player, the United States has fallen behind such countries as Singapore, South Korea, and Switzerland as an innovator.


More than ever before, business innovation is a strategic imperative. A critical driver of growth, competitiveness, and shareholder value, innovation is cited by senior executives around the world as integral to their companies’ success. And innovation benefits countries as well. In those with thriving industries, people have higher incomes, a better quality of life, and a higher standard of living than in less robust nations.

In today’s fiercely competitive global economy, the need to stay one step ahead is even more urgent. To remain in the game, companies must differentiate themselves through innovation: new products and services, new ways of working, new ways of going to market. And government—at both the national and the local level—must support these efforts through effective policies. Now is the time for companies and countries alike to focus on strengthening their competitive position. Only those nations that continue to invest in innovation and its enablers, such as a highly skilled and talented work force, will stay competitive in the long run.

So, how does the United States rank as an innovation leader relative to other countries in the world?