Graphic: Yogesh Kumar/Mint

Graphic: Yogesh Kumar/Mint

Iceland tops innovation index, India slides to 56th position

Iceland tops innovation index, India slides to 56th position

New Delhi: India, which has declared the next 10 years as the decade of innovation, slipped 13 places from its position last year in a ranking of 130 countries on innovation.

Smaller countries such as Trinidad and Tobago, Romania and Latvia edged out India in the survey that polled businessmen from several countries and relied on data sets from the World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Inadequate political stability, lower broadband and mobile phone usage (per 100 inhabitants) and insufficient infrastructure facilities were cited as key reasons for India’s drop in rankings.

Graphic: Yogesh Kumar/Mint

Iceland grabbed top honours this year, despite being badly hit by the financial crisis. The US, last year’s topper and among the biggest research and development spenders in the world, plummeted to 11th place behind Singapore, New Zealand and Hong Kong.

India was ranked 43rd in last year’s index, which too was an 18-rank decline from its position in 2008. However, the first edition only featured 107 countries.

“It’s a relative ranking, so even a half point difference between countries sends rankings tumbling. Also, ranking criteria is partly subjective and several respondents had higher expectations from India than previous years. So, last year’s ‘average’ could be this year’s ‘bad’," said Dutta.

“I haven’t analysed the report, but it doesn’t sound right that all criteria have the same weight," said Anirban Dutta, a science policy expert at Delhi University.

“Political stability cannot be reasonably compared to availability of scientists. So, I would take the findings with a pinch of salt," he said.

Though most innovation indices rank countries on the basis of their research spending as a proportion of the gross domestic product (GDP) and number of scientific publications and their patent output, and other newer parameters, Dutta’s exercise complements these with broader criteria such as soundness of banks and ease of doing business.

According to Soumitra Dutta, innovation is far more broad-based and not necessarily confined to laboratories.

“There are several innovations in India’s agriculture sector that can’t be captured by citations or patents. So, every year we try to improve our criteria and make innovation as broad-based as possible," he said.

For ranking purposes, each factor is categorized under two heads—input and output.

Input factors reflect how conducive a country is to innovation, while output factors tell how effectively a country translates innovation into knowledge, competitiveness and wealth.

“These results are averaged and on the basis of that, global ranks are calculated," he said.

The report puts China at 43, six places down from last year.

Indian policymakers and scientists frequently compare their research and innovation output with China’s, which in the past two decades has overtaken India on several indices that measure scientific prowess.

India spends less than 1% of its GDP on research and development. China dedicates 2% of its four-times-larger GDP to science and research.