While large countries are often described as the most innovative, many small countries are equally as innovative. From Estonia’s push to provide basic Wi-Fi Internet to all citizens, to Singapore’s commitment to funding nationals to return to research, small countries are taking big steps to support innovation.
Innovation was defined by taking into account the percentage of GDP committed to supporting research and development. Interestingly, a number of countries with small populations, like Finland, Austria, and Singapore, place higher emphasis on innovation than some countries with much larger populations, like France, Canada, or the UK.
What do innovative, small counties have in common? What can other small governments learn from innovative countries like Singapore and Finland? A new study from Nesta found five commonalities between countries with small populations and a high emphasis on innovation.
- Emphasize turning good ideas into commercial successes. The small but innovative countries all committed large amount of capital to government-backed research and development. In particular, the countries put a higher emphasis on creating downstream innovation.
- Focus on outward-facing innovation. Due to their small domestic markets, small countries must be outward-facing to enable internationally competitive innovation.
- Commit more than capital to fostering innovation. The successful small countries all work to support innovation by making technology a part of every citizen’s daily life.
- Create effective institutions for innovation. Almost all of the small but innovative countries identified had at least one well-regarded institution for innovation. While some of the institutions work in collaboration with the government, they are all removed from direct political control.
- Nurture a commitment to innovation. While a sense of mission is the most difficult to replicate, all of the countries saw innovation as the key to the future of their country. For many of the countries, the desire to innovate was spurred by nearby geopolitical conflicts.
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Contributed by Emily Luepker