It has become almost a habit for the Swiss to see their country at the top of competitiveness and innovation rankings. Although all ranking lists need to be taken with a grain of salt, the privileged position that Switzerland has held for years has reinforced our conviction – and rightly so – that our policies in support of research and innovation are sound. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the latest ranking published by the World Economic Forum at the end of last year, where Switzerland does not always appear on top for the various priorities. Like any country whose well-being is based primarily on innovation, Switzerland must continually reassess its competitiveness.
The WEF's latest transformation readiness framework is based on the premise that our society has reached a point where it can no longer be satisfied with economic productivity alone. Instead, it must also address the major challenges facing our society, such as sustainability, ageing, digitalisation and social equality. For this reason, the WEF has decided to replace its popular Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) measuring past performance with a more future-oriented index, which assesses each country’s ‘readiness for economic transformation’. The WEF is convinced that a profound transformation of our economies and governments is required in order to meet these challenges. It therefore considers it worthwhile to measure the progress of this transformation through a new index, which combines several quantitative and qualitative indicators.
Switzerland’s performance in terms of the WEF’s economic transformation priorities
The WEF’s eleven economic transformation priorities comprising the new transformation readiness framework are listed in the summary table below. These priorities measure the effectiveness of measures taken by governments to implement new policies that address major societal challenges. These priorities cover different aspects such as strong governance principles or the creation of future markets. Viewed through the lenses of these new priorities, Switzerland obtains mixed results in the comparison of 37 countries whereas the Nordic countries (Sweden, Denmark and Finland) come out on top.
It should be noted that performance on economic transformation priorities should be put into perspective due to the lack of (a) precise definitions of the different aspects of transformation and (b) reliable data to measure these aspects. Nevertheless, this exercise focusing on the transformation of economies can provide very useful insights for national innovation policies.
Like any country whose well-being depends primarily on innovation, Switzerland must continually reassess its competitiveness, especially since Switzerland's dominance in innovation rankings is largely due to the pharmaceutical, industrial and food sectors. Of course, these sectors will continue to play an important role in the economy in the future. If Swiss companies continue to innovate as they have in the past, Switzerland will remain well placed in the rankings. However, Switzerland will do even better if sectors and aspects related to the transformation of our society are also addressed.
Müfit Sabo, SERI
Scientific Advisor, Innovation Unit