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Survey suggests China to lead innovation

A survey of 6,000 people in six counties reveals marked differences in how innovation is perceived in established markets and growing economies

The AstraZeneca International Innovation Survey, conducted by Brunswick Research across six countries: Britain, the US, Sweden, Japan, India and China, revealed a marked East-West divide in terms of what people regard as the most important scientific achievements and inventions of the last century. 

For citizens of India, China and Japan, the greatest achievement of the past 100 years has been instant global communication. By contrast, people in Britain and Sweden view successfully combating serious diseases as the most important breakthrough. The Moon landing, slashing global journey times and increasing average lifespan are seen as much less important than either of these two by all those surveyed.

People living in the developing nations of China and India also exhibited optimism about the ability of their nations to prosper through innovation, which stands in stark contrast to the views of those in developed Western economies.

According to the survey, 30 per cent of respondents believe that the US is currently the world's most innovative country, followed by Japan on 25 per cent and China on 14 per cent. The UK is rated the most innovative by only 3 per cent of people. The US is also regarded as the country that provides the greatest amount of support for innovative individuals and businesses by respondents in all six countries surveyed.

However, when asked which country will be the most innovative a decade from now, China came top with 27 per cent of the votes, followed by India on 17 per cent. The US was in third place with 14 per cent, and Japan in fourth with 12 per cent. Only two per cent of respondents believe Britain will rank as the world's most innovative nation in a decade's time.

More than half of those in China and India thought their home countries would be the most innovative in the world by 2020 (57 per cent and 56 per cent respectively). Americans were also optimistic with 28 per cent, the largest proportion, believing their country would hold this position. However, just one in 20 Britons believed the UK would be able to lay claim to this title.

A majority of those living in the US, Japan and Britain agree that their countries are not as innovative as they used to be, while 44 per cent of Swedes felt the same. By contrast, more people in China disagreed with this statement than agreed.

The IT and telecoms sectors were universally seen as the most innovative followed by the pharmaceutical and automotive industries.

Asked about specific innovations over the past century, the internet, computers and electricity were generally seen as the most important. However, people in the US, Britain and Sweden also placed equal importance on the invention of vaccines and antibiotics.

8th December 2010

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