Canada among the top innovators – Busines – Canada among the top innovators

Canada ranks 14th in a field of 110 countries when it comes to innovation in the manufacturing sector, a new report says.

The study, compiled by international consulting firm Boston Consulting Group, judged countries partly based on government support for innovation – through tax and education policies, and the quality of infrastructure.

But it also looked at the performance of innovative companies, measured by factors such as high-tech exports, the amount of intellectual property generated and employment growth.

Canada was in the top tier, ahead of traditionally strong innovators such Britain, Israel, Australia, Germany and France. But we fell behind some of our traditional trading partners and competitors such as the United States (in the No. 8 spot) and Japan (No. 9).

Singapore was rated highest, followed by South Korea and Switzerland.

The results are a strong showing for Canada, said James Andrew, a Boston Consulting partner who heads its innovation practice and was one of the report’s authors.

“[Canada’s] score was far above a number of other countries that people would typically think of as innovative,” he said Monday.

Governments have an important role in setting the scene against which companies perform their innovative activities, the report emphasizes.

It is helpful if governments provide R&D tax credits, or pay for state-funded research, Mr. Andrew said, but the most important factor is support for education to create a qualified work force.

“For countries that want to improve their innovation environment and help companies to be more innovative, that is the primary place to devote the majority of their efforts,” he said.

Business executives’ primary concern is finding quality talent, Mr. Andrew said, and governments have a key role in educating those workers – not only at the university level but also at a much earlier age.

While the economic downturn has put tremendous pressure on manufacturers to cut costs, most recognize that they must invest to stay innovative if they are going to survive, he said.

Manufacturers – particularly in Western countries – understand that they are not going to succeed based on merely lowering costs to go head-to-head with plants in developing nations, he said. “To be competitive they have to be innovative.”

Research and development are the last things most companies want to cut, he said. “They know that if they do, they are mortgaging their future.”

The international innovation index top rankings, from a report by Boston Consulting Group:

1. Singapore
2. South Korea
3. Switzerland
4. Iceland
5. Ireland
6. Hong Kong
7. Finland
8. United States
9. Japan
10. Sweden
11. Denmark
12. Netherlands
13. Luxembourg
14. Canada
15. Britain
16. Israel
17. Austria
18. Norway
19. Germany
20. France
21. Malaysia
22. Australia
23. Estonia
24. Spain
25. Belgium

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