The rapidly developing countries of Asia, however, are rising fast. China, for example, has recently entered the top 25—the first time a "middle income" nation has started to compete at this level. The country that gave the world gunpowder, the compass, the waterwheel, paper money, printing and porcelain finally has started the long march back to a position among the world elite.
The incentive to innovate never has been higher.
"Investing in innovation is critical to raising long-term economic growth," said Francis Gurry, WIPO director general. "In this economic climate, uncovering new sources of growth and leveraging the opportunities raised by global innovation are priorities for all stakeholders," he said.
Freedom of speech
The U.S., however, remains well-positioned to continue its successful record of invention and innovation.
From its diverse population and tradition of free speech to federal investment and the high level of academic and commercial co-operation, many factors combine to ensure the environment is a supportive one for entrepreneurs intent on developing the next breakthrough product or service.
"An environment that supports the expression of multiple perspectives stimulates innovation," said Soumitra Dutta, co-author of the GII report and dean of the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University.
"Greater competition also pushes firms to be creative, invest more in R&D and become more innovative."
In addition, the U.S. education system and private sector have a symbiotic relationship, with universities, according to Mr. Dutta, forming the core of local innovation ecosystems in many parts of the U.S., including Silicon Valley, Southern California, New York, Minnesota and North Carolina.
"Universities serve as magnets attracting global talent—both students and professors," Mr. Dutta said. "Then talented graduates seek employment in local firms and startups. And the commercial sector in turn feeds universities with practical problems, which increases the real-world relevance of university research."
U.S. universities also have earned reputations for excellence that ensure they can compete internationally for talent. "The quality of universities is critical as global talent is very mobile, and the best professors and students naturally gravitate to the best concentrations of peers," Mr. Dutta added. "The best talent combined with an active engagement with the private sector provides strong foundations for creating an effective innovation ecosystem," he said
U.S. universities have earned reputations for excellence that ensure they can compete internationally for talent
The naturally innovative private sector is also backed by government money President Barack Obama called for a 6 per cent rise in the 2016 federal research and development budget to $146 billion — and part of the government's procurement budget supports innovative startups and small firms. There is also a willingness to make regulatory change to enable innovation.
"Breakthrough developments in sensing, computing and data science have brought vehicle-to-vehicle communication and cutting-edge, autonomous technology safety features into commercial deployment, while vehicles approaching full autonomy — self-driving cars — already are being tested on public roads," a White House spokesman explained.
Those self-driving cars crisscrossing towns and cruising on highways include the Tesla, Google Car and a much-rumored Apple iCar, each one a product of American ingenuity and ambition.
With tech giants and automotive makers combining with universities in Silicon Valley and beyond to push the boundaries of their industries, each one is also a model of how American business is designed to innovate.
This opinion piece can be found at tyres.pirelli.com. It is being reprinted with permission of the tire maker.