The UAE and Saudi Arabia have both climbed two places on the Global Innovation Index, while all other GCC states have seen their rankings fall.

The UAE reached number 34 of 131 countries surveyed in the Global Innovation Index 2020 report, while Saudi Arabia climbed to 66th place, both up two places from 2019.

The UAE was also ranked third in the Northern Africa and Western Asia region, behind Israel and Cyprus.

The index measures innovation performance through innovation inputs and outputs, by specifying the average of two sub-indicators: the innovation input index, which is based on five pillars: institutions, human capital and research, infrastructure, market development, and business development, and innovation outputs, which is divided into knowledge and technology outputs, and creative outputs.

The UAE’s accelerator programme Ghadan 21, which is investing US$13.6 billion to boost Abu Dhabi’s knowledge-based economy and supporting over 50 initiatives that promote the establishment of start-ups and spur innovation and research and development efforts, was also highlighted in the index report. 

Of Saudi Arabia’s scores in the different pillars of the index, the report said: “[Saudi Arabia] ramped up notably in the Innovation Output SubIndex by eight ranks to reach the 77th place. The sub-pillar Intangible assets (51st) increased the most by a combination of performance improvements and model changes. It gained seven ranks in the indicator Trademarks by origin (111th).

“With 46 brands in the top 5,000, led by telecoms STC, Saudi Arabia ranks 18th in the novel GII indicator Global brands value.

“Other relative strengths include the Ease of protecting minority investors, where it ranks 3rd worldwide, Global R&D companies (22nd), ICT access (31st), ICT use (29th), and the quality of its universities (31st),” the report said.

While the Saudi government has spent tens of billions of dollars seeking to promote venture capital activity in the kingdom, committing $45 billion from the Saudi Public Investment Fund to create economic diversity in the kingdom, the report said the level of venture capital remains modest.

“According to the consulting firm MAGNiTT, only US$50 million of venture capital was raised in 2018 by Saudi firms, and 2019 was on a very similar pace,” the report said.

“The 2018 value represented 0.006 percent of gross domestic product, a level one sixtieth of that of Israel and akin to that of the lowest nations tracked on this measure by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.”

All Gulf states were among the 42 countries in the index whose innovation level falls below what would be expected.

“All these economies have a large oil-related GDP, which sets the bar higher for them,” the report said.

In 2020, Qatar was ranked at number 70 in the index, Kuwait 78, Bahrain 79 and Oman 84, down from 65, 60, 78 and 80 in 2019.

(Reporting by Imogen Lillywhite; editing by Mily Chakrabarty)


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