Want to know who will be economically stronger in the next decade or two? It will most likely be countries that have good emerging science and technology capabilities or what I call S&T bench strength.
Since it takes about a 5-15 or more years to take a scientific discovery and turn it into a commercial venture, we need to look at trends over several decades. Once upon a time, all you had to do was look to the US to find all the leading edge innovation in most industries. Not any more.
If we use the number of peer-reviewed academic scientific papers that are published annually as a proxy for S&T strength, then clearly the USA is still number one with about 250,000 -260,000 papers published per year. That's twice as much as China, who is in second spot with about 120,000 papers per year. Then we get a cluster of several nations at 50,000 to 60,000 paper such as Japan, the UK and Germany. The next cluster comes in a 30-35,000 paper range (ie France, Canada, India, Rep of Korea,historic FSU (ie Russia, Ukraine etc). Brazil rounds out the top ten at around 22,000 papers per year.
That list of academic titans correlates nicely with their relative economic strength.
But the gross numbers only tell half the story. If we look at growth rates over the last 30 years, we see a different picture.
Countries like US and Canada and even Europe as a whole, while high in gross total numbers have been fairly stagnant in growth over the past 30 years.
If we set the global average of the Growth Index (GI) at 1.0, then North America has a GI of 0.78 and Europe's GI is 0.95, less the 1.0 which is the global average.
Who are the S&T growth leaders in the past 30 years. You will be surprised. No it's no China.
- Iran (GI = 14.4) (mostly nuclear research related)
- Rep of Korea (GI= 9.8)
- Turkey (GI=7.8)
- Cyprus (GI=5.2)
- Finally China (GI=5.1)
- Oman (GI=4.8)
- Portugal (GI=3.9)
- Estonia (GI=3.4)
- Tunisia (GI=3.2)
In contrast, the following are below world average growth.
- Israel (GI=0.94)
- UK (GI=0.86)
- Canada (GI=0.82)
- USA (GI = 0.77)
But then quantity may not always equate to quality (i.e frequency of science citations) and number of breakthroughs or milestone discoveries. A number of science watchers accuse China of doing alot of incremental copycat, me-to research.
There is also a distinct English language and western media bias to cover primarily western science and far less of a tendency to generally cover discoveries from around the world. So consequently, the politicians, business and the public doesn't have a clear view of the discoveries in other parts of the world, such as the Middle East or even countries from the former Soviet Union (FSU)
But in general, the moral of the story is: there's innovation and novel discovery all around the world and not just the USA any more.
Source: Science Metrix and The Web of Science (Thompson Reuters)