The global innovation index GII 2016 was published in mid-august. It aggregated index shows that Denmark is number 8 in the world, and therefore among the top countries when it comes to innovation. A similar picture emerged some weeks before when Denmark was voted number 2 among the 28 EU countries in the overall aggregated index of the European Innovation Scoreboard 2016. These are very beautiful positions. And the Danish media has been cheering. But it makes sense to compare countries using an aggregated single index? And it goes really so well in Denmark?
The aggregated innovation index is a simplistic way of assessing innovation. The main index boils a large number of very different indicators together and it can easily be misleading. Furthermore it mixes factors affecting inputs and outputs together so the overall aggregated index cannot be used to see how efficiently Denmark is to transform resources and investment to innovation performance.
In fact, it is much more appropriate to split these figures in the original indicators that form that overall index. In that way we can see a clearer and much more realistic picture, which shows that Denmark still has some important challenges when it comes to innovation performance. Denmark is doing well on indicators of research expenditure, number of researchers and education quality. But it is not as highly ranked, when looking at cooperation between industry and academia. Here Denmark is numerically behind the other Scandinavian countries and other countries, it usually is compared with. In another indicator, the development of “clusters” (geographically contiguous concentrations of companies and institutions within an industry), shows Denmark behind other leading countries.
The detailed figures provide a picture of a reality in which there is room for improvement. Denmark spends much money on research, education and science, but it is still not at the top when it comes to other important framework conditions for innovation, nor in terms of using efficiently those resources relative to the innovation outputs.
For that reason it is important not to just look at a single aggregated index, cheering on simplistic grounds.
Link to the opinion article in Børsen (in Danish) August 18th 2016: