Swiss Top Global Innovation Index—Despite Brain Drain

Swiss workers are leaving their country;foreign talent is pouring in.

Switzerland is deemed to be the world’s most innovative country, according to the 2018 Global Innovation Index, co-published by Cornell University, INSEAD and the World Intellectual Property Organization.

The Alpine nation has held the index’s top innovation slot since 2011. The distinction was based on the country’s first-rate patent and intellectual-property rules, its high-tech manufacturing, quality universities and the fact that it is “among global leaders in R&D spending.”

Behind Switzerland in the ranking are the Netherlands, Sweden, the UK, Singapore, the US, Finland, Denmark and Germany. Among the big gainers at the top of this year’s index are Israel, which climbed seven points to finish in 11th place, and China, which rose five points to 17th. However, according to the index, South and Central America generally do not perform well when it comes to creating innovative economies.

A recent report from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) also confirmed Switzerland’s popularity as a place for foreigners to move to for work. Despite slipping from the fifth spot in 2014 to eighth in BCG’s Decoding Global Talent 2018 report—which surveyed more than 300,000 people in 197 countries—Switzerland remains one of the most popular destinations for foreign workers from countries like France, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Italy, Greece and Germany, BCG says.

On the flip side, however, 60% of Swiss workers indicated their willingness to work abroad, down from 77% in 2014. The top three foreign destinations for Swiss workers, according to BCG’s report, are the US, Canada and Germany.

For many years, Swiss politicians and experts have called for increased efforts to halt the country’s brain drain.

Almost 20 years ago, Johannes Randegger, a member of parliament, pointed out that Switzerland had fallen behind other leading countries in the world in competitiveness, saying that investment in research had stagnated for several years. Randegger called for a more competitive spirit in Switzerland’s traditionally federalist education system, hence the massive public and private commitment to finance innovation and support competitiveness. Those efforts have clearly paid off.