Published annually since 2007, the Global Innovation Index (GII) is a leading benchmarking tool for business executives, policy makers and others seeking insight into the state of innovation around the world and innovation trends. Policymakers, business leaders and other stakeholders use the GII to evaluate innovation progress.

The Global Innovation Index is developed by Cornell University, INSEAD and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). A.T. Kearney and its innovation-focused in-house startup IMP³rove Academy are knowledge partners for the GII.


The key findings of GII are around strategies for innovation to achieve global goals and observations on geographic regions. The core of the GII Report consists of a ranking of world economies’ innovation capabilities and results. Recognizing the key role of innovation as a driver of economic growth and prosperity, and the need for a broad horizontal vision of innovation applicable to developed and emerging economies, the GII outlines indicators that go beyond the traditional measures of innovation such as the level of research and development spending and activities.

The United States of America (U.S.) is ranked fourth in the 2016 GII, up one position from the 2015 ranking. The U.S. is ranked second in quality of innovation among the high-income economies. The GII measures innovation quality as: 1) quality of local universities, 2) internationalization of local inventions (patents filed), and 3) the number of citations that local research documents receive abroad.

Most of the U.S. strengths are found in five of the seven GII pillars (GII pillars include institutions, human capital and research, infrastructure, market sophistication, business sophistication, knowledge and technology outputs, creative outputs). The U.S. shows its best performance in human capital and research (14th), market sophistication (1st), business sophistication (11th), knowledge and technology outputs (4th) and creative outputs (13th).

In human capital and research where the U.S. ranked 14th, the key strengths are in global R&D firms, average expenditures, and top universities.

The market sophistication pillar is the key strength of the U.S. (ranked 1st). The U.S. demonstrates advantages in the sub-pillars credit and investment and trade, competition and market scale (the U.S. is ranked #1 in all three subcategories). Other U.S. strengths are ease of securing credit (2nd), domestic credit to the private sector (3rd), total value of stocks traded (1st), venture capital deals (1st) and domestic market scale (2nd).

In business sophistication (ranked 11th), the U.S. is strong in university/industry research collaboration (ranked 2nd) and the state of cluster development (ranked 2nd).

On the Innovation Output side of the GII analysis, U.S. advantages are exhibited in both knowledge and technology outputs (4th) and creative outputs (13th). In knowledge and technology outputs, the U.S. is ranked first in total software spending and intellectual property receipts. With regard to creative outputs, the U.S. is ranked high in organizational model creation (2nd), as well as cultural and creative services exports (1st).

Although the U.S. ranks high across many of the GII pillars and sub-categories, there are areas where the U.S. needs to improve. In Innovation input, the U.S. ranks 13th in infrastructure, 80th in gross capital formation, 79th in GDP per unit of energy use and 88th in ISO 14001 environmental certificates.

Other Innovation input measurements where the U.S. scored poorly include graduates in science and engineering (85th), GERD financed by abroad (70th) and foreign direct investment net inflows (104th).

In Innovation output, most of the relative weaknesses are exhibited in the knowledge and technology output pillar. These include the growth rate of GDP per person engaged (70th), ISO 9001 quality certificates (88th) and ICT services exports (71st).

In the creative output, there is only one relative weakness found – trademark application class count by origin (78th).

Over the last six years, the U.S. has exhibited consistent performance and has kept its position among the top 10 GII-ranked high-income innovation nations. Over the 2014-2015 period, the U.S. has maintained this performance in both innovation inputs and outputs, with improvement in 2016 in both.

Violetka Dirlea is a partner with A.T. Kearney and leads the firm’s Americas Innovation Practice. She is based in Detroit and can be reached at

The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.