Australia just got told it's not innovative enough

Photo: Getty Images

The Swiss are renowned for efficiency, and for a seventh consecutive year, they have been deemed the most competitive nation when it comes to fostering productivity and prosperity.

That’s the findings of the latest Global Competitiveness Report for 2015-2016, released by the World Economic Forum (WEF) earlier today.

The report, created in 2004, is an annual assessment of the factors driving productivity and prosperity in 140 countries, and ranks the competitiveness of nations based on a calculation based on country-level data covering 12 categories — ranging from infrastructure, education, labour market efficiency and business sophistication, among others.

This year the WEF found a correlation between highly competitive countries and those that either withstood the global economic crisis or made a swift recovery from it. It also discovered a close link between the competitiveness of a nation and its ability to nurture, attract, leverage and support talent.

The top 10 most competitive nations, according to the WEF, are revealed in the table below.

As you may note, Australia does not feature in the top ten, coming in at number 21 on the list, a slight improvement on the 22 ranking achieved a year earlier.

Despite scoring strongly in areas such as education and financial market development, the WEF suggests there are two key area holding Australia back — innovation and business sophistication.

“The country’s performance remains strong across all categories of the Index, particularly in education (9th in basic education and 8th in higher education) and financial market development (7th),” the report said.

“Australia leapfrogs 20 places in the labor market efficiency pillar (36th), which has traditionally been its weakest aspect. Despite world-class education and universities, however, it continues to lag behind most advanced economies in innovation (23rd, up two). With global commodity prices set to remain low for the foreseeable future, along with the slowdown in China, the country must diversify further and move up the value chain“.

How Australia ranks in each of the WEFs 12 individual categories is shown in the chart below. The scores range from one to seven with the latter the highest level achievable in terms of global competitiveness.

The findings of the WEF report are timely given the change of political leadership in Australia earlier this month. In his first statement after being elected prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull urged Australians to embrace innovation.

“The Australia of the future has to be a nation that is agile, that is innovative, that is creative. We can’t be defensive, we can’t future-proof ourselves,” he said.

“We have to recognise that the disruption that we see driven by technology, the volatility in change is our friend if we are agile and smart enough to take advantage of it.”

We’ve been told that as a nation we’re lagging behind others in terms on innovation and now have a prime minister who recognises a need for change.

All that’s required now is to turn those words into actions. Politicians in Canberra and around the nation, on both side of the house, take note.

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