BRICs innovative stagnation

Nieuws | de redactie
21 oktober 2013 | Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa have become a lot less innovative in the last three years, the Global Innovation Index shows. Especially the countries’ higher education sectors are underperforming. Programs like Science Without Borders are essential to stop the BRIC’s innovative stagnation.

“BRICs-countries are falling behind in Global Innovation Index (GII) rankings”, the GII 2013 report concludes. Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa have experienced stagnation or even a drop in the global innovation ranking when compared to 2012. Between 2011 and 2012 the BRICs had to do a step back.

Bulgaria better than BRICs

China is the highest ranked BRICs-country on the 35th place, one spot down from 2012 and six from 2011. Middle-income countries Malaysia and Latvia and European under-performers like Portugal overtook China’s leading position as ‘the best of the rest’.

There are no large differences between the other BRICs-countries, South Africa is down four and stands on the 58th place. Russia is 62nd, a decrease of 11 positions from 2012 and six from 2011. Brazil is found on place 64, a decrease of six spots from 2012 and 17 from 2011. Finally, India is found on the 66th place, a decrease of two positions from 2012 and four from 2011. The once very promising BRICs are now ranked lower than Bulgaria (41), Serbia (54) and Thailand (58).

While the BRICs stagnate, other middle-income countries rise among the ranks. Mexico is found on the 63rd spot, an increase of 16 positions from 2012 and 18 from 2011. Indonesia is now 85th, an increase of 15 from 2012 and 14 from 2011.Others, like Bolivia, Cambodia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Uganda, and Uruguay all increased their rankings by more than 15 positions this year.

Better higher education in Paraguay

“The GII 2012 posited that a holistic, knowledge-based growth strategy for innovation was desirable: a strategy in which innovation improvements resulted from continuous improvements across all of the multiple input and output dimensions of the GII and in which these improvements were integrated across large segments of society and the economy. Achieving these broad-based and continuous improvements seems to be a challenge for many middle income economies, as evidenced by their overall GII ranks (none have yet been able to break into the top 25),” the report states.

One of the key sectors for a country’s innovation strength is higher education. Apart from Russia which tertiary education is ranked 46th, the BRICs have their higher education as a shared weakness. Even countries like Paraguay score better than the BRICs: Brazil (116), China (120), India (133) and South Africa (141) are found in the lowest regions of this ranking. Mobility needs to be improved urgently to boost these higher education sectors. Initiatives like Science without Borders are essential in stimulating the innovation power of the BRICs-countries.

Per country strengths and weaknesses:


China scores very good with its PISA results, however these results only include Hong-Kong and Shanghai. The other strength is the enormous size of China’s economy, it’s second after only the US. The sheer amount of export and the growth of China’s GDP contribute too. China is also the country in which most companies offer formal training to their employees. The political environment, online creativity and the ‘real’ environment are China’s –not very surprising – weak spots.

South Africa

South Africa’s strength lies in the sophistication of the market, it is the easiest country in the world to get business credit and one of the easiest countries with its taxes. The collaboration between universities and industry is creating many powerful innovation linkages. Teacher pupil ratios and South Africa’s higher education are a weakness, just as the ecological sustainability of its economy.


Although Russia’s political environment is among the worst in the world, it doesn’t score as low as China (117 versus 126). Where South Africa has a very sophisticated market, it is one of the weaknesses in Russian innovation, local competition is almost non-existent. Russia’s higher education and amount of teachers are its strength. Russia’s highly educated citizens together have a lot of knowledge-intensive jobs, resulting in a top score for knowledge creation. However on creative output Russia does not score in the global top 100.


Brazil scores good on its ecological sustainability, a rainforest in your backyard does help in this ranking. Brazil also has a lot of high-tech manufactures and a quite strong R&D environment overall. The business environment on the other hand is less developed; Brazil is one of the countries where it is hardest to start a business (138th). Brazil’s higher education sector is ranked 116th and is also one of its weak points.


The lowest ranked of the BRICs is India. India has a very efficient innovation sector, but that doesn’t result in a high ranking. India’s education sector is nowhere near the top 100, just like its business environment. India’s political (in)stability and environmental performance don’t help to get near a good score as well. India’s R&D infrastructure and investments in the market are its strongest points.

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