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Global Invention Map

A topography of nation-by-nation inventive prowess.

Invention is exploding globally, but only in certain hot spots. Nearly half of U.S. patents are now awarded to foreign companies and inventors. As measured by patents per million people, some two dozen countries (in purple, blue, and green) now have significant levels of invention and innovation, activity that correlates highly with standards of living. The numerical rankings reflect “national innovation capacity.” Defined as “the degree to which a nation offers a favorable environment at the world technology frontier,” this measure also takes into account the strength of regional clusters of innovative companies and universities. There are some surprises, with small countries ranking near the top-like Finland, at number two-and vast regions of the world still hardly registering. The wild cards, of course, are India and China, which would remake the map if their already significant levels of innovation grew to be more commensurate with their vast populations.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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