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A tournament of innovation

This month, 32 nations will come together in Russia to compete for the biggest prize in world football. Whilst Brazil, Germany and Spain are considered among the favourites to be crowned champions on the 15th July, we thought we’d look at how the 32 nations competing in this year’s tournament fared on innovation.

Using data (where it was available) from the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) website, from 2012-2016 we looked at the total number of patent applications per million population. Using the same groups as those in Russia we looked at who are the most innovative countries taking part in the tournament this year.


Group A

Total number of patent applications per million population (2012-2016)

Final Positions

Russia

969

1

Saudi Arabia

125

2

Egypt

41

3

Uruguay

25

4


The host nation is by far and away the most innovative country, taking first spot in Group A. Russia has a proud history of innovation from the creation of synthetic rubbers to its pioneering work in the space race.

Saudi Arabia is the second most innovative country in the group. As the Kingdom continues to modernise and invest more into R&D it might be likely to generate more patent applications per million population and a strong showing could be expected at future tournaments.

The Ancient Egyptians gave us many innovations that we still use today such as paper, clocks and irrigation but modern Egypt is only the third most innovative country in the group.

Rounding off the group is Uruguay with a total of 24 patent applications per million population between 2012-2016.


Group B

Total number of patent applications per million population (2012-2016)

Final Positions

Iran

646

1

Spain

481

2

Portugal

405

3

Morocco

38

4


Iran comes top of Group B as the most innovative country. Iran has a great history of innovation, responsible for creating the world’s first form of refrigeration, for inventing algebra and for creating the first ever guitar.

Spain vs Portugal is one of the most anticipated early matches of the football tournament and in this innovation matchup of the European heavyweights. Spain just edges its Iberian neighbour. Famous Spanish inventions include the mop and the spacesuit.

Portugal is known for having started the Age of Discovery with the invention of the Caravel; the small highly manoeuvrable sailing ship that allowed its sailors to navigate to and explore the West African coast.

Morocco makes up Group B with a total of 38 patent applications per million population between 2012-2016.


Group C

Total number of patent applications per million population (2012-2016)

Final Positions

Denmark

2,910

1

France

1,869

2

Australia

538

3

Peru

11

4


A strong group, Denmark is the most innovative country at the tournament so far. With its small population (5.7m as of 2016) the Danes have given the world the loudspeaker, insulin and of course LEGO®.

Another footballing heavyweight and favourite to win the tournament, France comes comfortably second in the group. Famous French inventions include the Braille reading and writing system for the blind, hot air balloons and mayonnaise.

Polymer bank notes, Wi-Fi technology and the inflatable aircraft escape slide – Australia has given us many innovations that are crucial to our everyday living but it’s only the third most innovative country in the group.

Finally, Peru rounds off Group C as the least innovative country taking part in the tournament.


Group D

Total number of patent applications per million population (2012-2016)

Final Positions

Iceland

1,249

1

Croatia

241

2

Argentina

77

3

Nigeria

No data

4


Iceland’s 1,249 total is extremely impressive given the small size of its population (330,000 as of 2016). This makes Iceland the nation with the smallest population at the tournament.

Famous for inventing the parachute, the torpedo and the pencil, Croatia is the second most innovative country in Group D.

A group it seems famous for writing instrument innovation, it was an Argentinian inventor who came up with the ballpoint pen. Other Argentinian innovations include the artificial heart and the earliest system of identifying people by their fingerprints.

Unfortunately, there is currently no data available for Nigeria and the Super Eagles are bottom of our innovation ranking.


Group E

Total number of patent applications per million population (2012-2016)

Final Positions

Switzerland

5,121

1

Serbia

139

2

Brazil

119

3

Costa Rica

15

4


It just would not be the same without Brazil who have featured at every version of the tournament since the first in 1930. Brazil are also the most successful nation in the tournament’s history having been crowned champions a record five times.

Unfortunately, Brazil comes third in the innovation rankings of Group E. Innovations that Brazilians have given the world include automatic transmission and the personal stereo.

Switzerland is by far the most innovative country at the tournament so far. Swiss innovations include VELCRO®, cellophane, and the bobsleigh.

No mentions of Serbia and innovation can be made without reference to Nikola Tesla; the Serbian-American inventor best known for his pioneering work with electricity. Tesla was a prolific inventor obtaining around 300 patents.

Costa Rica round off Group E.


Group F

Total number of patent applications per million population (2012-2016)

Final Positions

South Korea

15,824

1

Germany

4,522

2

Sweden

2,997

3

Mexico

52

4


Group F looks like our “Group of Death” featuring three of the most innovative countries at the tournament. Sweden’s total of 2,997 is only good enough for third in this group but it would make them winners of five of the other groups at the tournament. Swedish innovations includes the modern seatbelt, dynamite and the adjustable wrench.

With companies such as Samsung, LG Electronics and Hyundai all founded in South Korea, it’s no wonder it is the most innovative nation at the tournament. Some of the most cutting edge technological innovations of today come from South Korea such as Nano 3D printing and touch screen mobile phones.

The last winners of the tournament held in Brazil in 2014, the Germans are as good at football as they are at innovating. Famous German innovations include contact lenses, the printing press and x-rays.

Mexico finishes off Group F in last place. Mexicans can however rest in the knowledge that the vast majority of the over 3bn people who are expected to watch the tournament in Russia will do so on colour televisions which the country is famous for inventing.


Group G

Total number of patent applications per million population (2012-2016)

Final Positions

England (UK)

1,525

1

Belgium

1,273

2

Tunisia

74

3

Panama

26

4


Finally, a group England manage to top and it’s only with the help of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as WIPO measures intellectual property data for the UK as a whole. The UK has a great history of innovation which includes the telephone, the internet and radar.

In a surprising twist, a country famous for beer, waffles and chocolate, it was a Belgian mathematician who was responsible for inventing the Body Mass Index (BMI). Other Belgian innovations include saxophones and asphalt.

Tunisia is in third place followed by Panama in fourth. Panama’s most famous innovation is undoubtedly its Canal and the team travelling to Russia go by the wonderfully appropriate nickname of Los Canaleros (The Canal Men).


Group H

Total number of patent applications per million population (2012-2016)

Final Positions

Japan

10,556

1

Poland

624

2

Colombia

33

3

Senegal

No data

4


When it comes to football ability, this is perhaps the hardest group to predict as any one of the teams could go through. Japan however is the Brazil of innovation and no surprises to see the country top Group H. Famous Japanese innovations include the pocket calculator, the bullet train and blue LED lights.

Poland, the second most innovative country in the group, has given the world mine detectors, paper clips and toothpaste.

Colombia comes third for innovation in Group H. Unfortunately, there is no information available on Senegal and so they, along with Nigeria, come joint bottom of our rankings.

Our final table looks like:

 

Country

Total number of patent applications per million population (2012-2016)

Rank

Official body ranking

South Korea

15,824

1

57

Japan

10,556

2

61

Switzerland

5,121

3

6

Germany

4,522

4

1

Sweden

2,997

5

24

Denmark

2,910

6

12

France

1,869

7

7

England (UK)

1,525

8

12

Belgium

1,273

9

3

Iceland

1,249

10

22

Russia

969

11

70

Iran

646

12

37

Poland

624

13

8

Australia

538

14

36

Spain

481

15

10

Portugal

405

16

4

Croatia

241

17

20

Serbia

139

18

34

Saudi Arabia

125

19

67

Brazil

119

20

2

Argentina

77

21

5

Tunisia

74

22

21

Mexico

52

23

15

Egypt

41

24

45

Morocco

38

25

41

Colombia

33

26

16

Panama

26

27

55

Uruguay

25

28

14

Costa Rica

15

29

23

Peru

11

30

11

Senegal

No data

31

27

Nigeria

No data

31

48


South Korea is the most innovative country followed by Japan and then Switzerland. Peru, Costa Rica and Uruguay are the least innovative. In this final table we’ve also included the current official body rankings for each nation.

It makes for interesting reading to compare a country’s ability to innovate against the current ranking of its men’s national team. Japan and South Korea are ranked very low in terms of their football ability but are both extremely innovative nations. Germany, who are currently rated as the best men’s national team in the world are also the fourth most innovative nation. The UK is the eighth most innovative nation taking part in the tournament but the England team is currently ranked the 12th best in the world.

Asia dominates the top of our table as the top two countries are by far the most innovative taking part. The next nine most innovative countries are all European whilst African and South/Central American countries are the least innovative.

If the tournament in Russia was a competition of innovation then those of you who drew South Korea or Japan in your sweepstakes can point out to your colleagues that you’d already be cashing in.

Swindell & Pearson is a UK based firm of patent and trade mark attorneys that has been helping businesses and individuals protect and defend their ideas, innovations and brands for over 130 years. Based in the East Midlands, the firm has offices in Derby, Stoke, Wolverhampton and Stafford as well as in Sheffield. To find out how Swindell & Pearson can help you and your business with any intellectual property matters please get in touch via info@patents.co.uk or by telephone on 01332 367 051.

 

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