21 June, 2024


Sri Lanka Rises On Global Innovation Index From 105th To 85th Place

By Asanga Abeyagoonasekera

Asanga Abeygoonasekera

Asanga Abeygoonasekera

Each nation must find the right mix of policies to mobilize the innate innovative and creative potential in their economies.” Francis Gurry, WIPO Director General

The Global Innovation Index 2015 was released on the 17th September 2015. It is co-published by Cornell University, INSEAD and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The report surveys 141 economies around the world, using 79 indicators to gauge both innovative capabilities and measurable results.

The report marks Sri Lanka’s progress from 105th position last year to 85th position in 2015. This significant rise in rank owes mainly due certain improvements in all pillars of the Global Innovation Index (GII). According to the report “Although some of this development can be linked to methodological changes and other countries worsening (particularly in Human capital and research), Sri Lanka makes advancements at the raw data level in areas such as the government’s online service index and online e-participation, 34 GDP per unit of energy use, and communications and computer and information services imports. Conversely, Sri Lanka worsened at the raw data level in areas such as ease of starting a business, ease of resolving insolvency, rule of law, employment in knowledge-intensive services, and new business density”. Indian remains at the top of the regional ranking of Central and Southern Asia this year, followed by Kazakhstan and Sri Lanka, which has improved.

As the new government is ready to kick start its development plan for the next five years it is important that Sri Lanka sets out its economic policy to move towards an innovation driven economy. It could progress in these policies by firstly launching a campaign to enhance growth of innovation by setting the eco-system conducive to fostering innovation.

ICTA, COSTI, NSF and many more other institutions and Ministries can play a huge role to draw up a sustainable plan to support this. Looking at the Gross expenditure on R&D according to (GERD): Gross expenditure on R&D (% of GDP) 2013 at the top of the ranking is Israel with 4.20% of GDP, at rank 17  is China with 2.08 %, at rank 18 is Singapore with 2.02% and at rank 97  Sri Lanka with 0.16% a very low figure. A nation with lower middle income like Sri Lanka should focus to move towards an innovation driven economy giving top priority to R&D and strengthening its research pool. If you look at the researchers per million population, Sri Lanka has less researchers with a value of 103.09 and at the top with the global leader of this being Israel with a value of 8337.13 and Singapore with a value of 6437.73 a very high research population.

Another area Sri Lanka should focus on is promoting entrepreneurship development and recognizing local entrepreneurs. The Government needs to support startups by assisting them by way of loans from banks and recognizing such individuals. Inventors should be given assistance for their research funds like the model of Israel which functions on the “First Capital” system that provides initial funding and protects the product and supports entrepreneurs and innovators to commercialize their inventions. A tech park like the one Prime Minister Ranil Wickramesinghe tried to start back in 2003 “Telecom City” could be looked at again a one stop shop for ICT/BPO industry with R&D center this project was unfortunately stopped by the Government of 2004 and subsequently requested to move it to Hambanthota which didn’t happen. A consistent policy for this industry is important.

The United Kingdom (UK) stands at the second place this year has made tremendous improvement from 10th position in 2011. According to Baroness Neville-Rolfe, Minister for Intellectual Property and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills: “The UK has an outstanding tradition in producing the very best in science and research: with less than 1% of the world’s population we produce 16% of the top quality published research. The government is committed to making Britain the best place in Europe to innovate, patent new ideas and start and grow a business.”

At the top of the rankings of the world’s five most innovative nations are was Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Sweden, the Netherlands and the United States of America.China, Malaysia, Viet Nam, India, Jordan, Kenya, and Uganda are among a group of countries outperforming their economic peers. The group of top 25 performers all high income economies remain unchanged from past reports. Some exceptions are: the Czech Republic (24th) is in the top 25 and Ireland (8th) in the top 10 this year. Also, China (29th) and Malaysia (32nd) show a performance which is similar to the one of top 25 high-income countries, including in areas such as human capital development and research and development funding.

In terms of innovation quality as measured by university performance, the reach of scholarly articles and the international dimension of patent applications a few economies stand out. The US and the UK stay ahead of the pack, largely as a result of their world-class universities, closely followed by Japan, Germany and Switzerland. The average score of the top 3 universities at the QS world university ranking in 2014 has ranked Singapore Universities at 20th place and Sri Lankan Universities at 66th Place which needs improvement. (Quacquarelli Symonds Ltd, QS World University Ranking 2014/2015, Top Universities)

Top-scoring middle-income economies on innovation quality are China, Brazil and India, with China increasingly outpacing the others. Sri Lanka’s promising new Government and the right policy mix has potential to mobilize the innovative and creative potential.

Improving the eco-system of innovation, Sri Lanka could achieve the number one position in few years in the region. Bringing in innovative practices which will improve our economic position as well.

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Latest comments

  • 4

    The price for tea has dropped again to historical lows.

    With the existing production costs I do not think this industry will be viable any longer. The tea industry is crying for innovation.

    Robots are used for harvesting in few areas of Agriculture. Why not the brightest minds at universities and the industry get together and automate harvesting? Perhaps the low quality teas can be harvested using automation.

    It will require expertise in things like robotics, artificial intelligence and image analysis which I am sure many capable minds can be found.

    [Edited out]

    • 6

      tea is for goats so the donkey of the south refused saying it was cold.
      you have malnutrition and no robots can do the work of goats.
      because of toxicity tea is rarely in use in western europe .- its all starbucks not tea kadde.

      your idea is of a fascist Sinhalese thug down under nothing to do with tea.

      But your grandad Hindia the rightful owner will finish you once he finishes the Tamils- just following the british principal like the Sinhalese.
      A hong kong for mainland Hindia governed by New Delhi.
      Its in the hindi chronicles.

      End up like Diego Garcia’s.

  • 0

    Politicians promote importing because that gives them humongous political donations.

    Innovations don’t give them political donations.

    It is all lack of imagination, opportunity and leadership.

    Sri lankans got used to Tea when birtish came. Now they drink Instant coffee.


  • 0


    Another ranking released Sept 29, the global competitiveness index for 2015/2016, is available at weforum.org.

    It lists SL at #68; curiously, under the Innovation pillar, the item ‘availability of scientists and engineers’ ranks SL at #13, just above Sweden, Germany, Spain, Australia, UK, France.

    Was there some mistake, or was it a case of fudging in the terminology, say by counting technicians as engineers, as China often does?

    • 0

      Our real inability is to retain those we train to serve in the country. We export trained and talented people. Just imagine if the likes of clever Agnos were to return to live and contribute here in Sri Lanka. We will jump several places up on any of these league tables, no?

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