Iceland Ranked World's 20th Most Innovative Nation Skip to content
Ms. Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir, Minister of Justice, Ms. Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir, Minister of Tourism, Industry and Innovation, Mr. Bjarni Benediktsson, Minister of Finance and Economic affairs.
Photo: Áslaug Arna, Minister of Science, Industry and Innovation, alongside ministers Bjarni Benediktsson and Þórdís Kolbrún R. Gylfadóttir.

Iceland Ranked World’s 20th Most Innovative Nation

Iceland ranks 20th among the world’s most innovative nations according to the new global innovation index. Switzerland, the US, and Sweden remain top.

The Global Innovation Index

The Global Innovation Index is “an annual ranking of countries by their capacity for, and success in, innovation.” The index – started in 2007 by INSEAD and World Business – is published by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and is based on both subjective and objective data derived from several sources, including the International Telecommunication Union, the World Bank, and the World Economic Forum.

Falling three places from 2021, Iceland ranks 20th according to this year’s index (the confidence interval indicates that Iceland ranks somewhere between 15th and 20th) and 12th among European countries.

Read More: Idea Island (Iceland Is Investing in Innovation)

As noted by the government’s website, Iceland’s standing may be somewhat skewed by its size and abundance of natural resources: “As a small country, by international standards, Iceland draws the short straw when it comes to several criteria employed by WIPO during the index’s calculus; the criteria is not patterned to small nations rich in natural resources.”

To this point, Iceland scores high (14th place) in the categories Institutions and Business Sophistication, and is ranked first when it comes to the use of information and communication technologies, electricity output, share of gross domestic expenditure on research and development (GERD) financed from abroad, number of scientific articles published per capita, national feature films, and online creativity.

On the other hand, Iceland scores low when it comes to the ratio of gross-domestic-product (GDP)-to-energy-use (129th), a proxy for energy efficiency; the size of the domestic market (129th); the value of inward direct investment made by non-resident investors (127th); and graduates in science and engineering (85th).

As noted in a recent article in Iceland Review magazine, Iceland may have “hopped on the startup train a bit later than other countries, but its startup environment has taken huge strides in recent years.” In 2019, the Icelandic government penned its first-ever comprehensive innovation policy, and at the end of 2020, the newly-elected government established a Ministry of Higher Education, Science, and Innovation, suggesting that policymakers are “not overlooking what startups have to offer the nation.”

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