Business

U.S. fears losing innovation edge over China

The innovation gap is narrowing: index

The United States fell one place, to ninth, in Bloomberg's list of the world's most innovative economies. China advanced
The United States fell one place, to ninth, in Bloomberg’s list of the world’s most innovative economies. China advanced one more spot, to 15th, this year. (Associated Press)

America’s concern about losing its technological advantage over China has helped drive the trade war between the world’s two biggest economies, and Bloomberg’s latest global innovation index shows the concern isn’t misplaced. The gap is narrower than ever.

The United States fell one place, to ninth, in the list of the world’s most innovative economies, continuing its gradual descent after getting the top ranking when the index was first published in 2013.

China was languishing in 29th place back then — but it’s been rising ever since, and advanced one more spot to 15th this year.

There were bright spots in the index for America, which remains the world leader in both patent activity and high-tech density.

But in education, the United States dropped four places to 47th.

Data from the 36-member Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, show that American scores haven’t improved over the past decade — or for 30 years in the case of low-performing students.

Only 8 percent of U.S. students scored at the highest level in mathematics, compared with 44 percent in the coastal areas of China.

The United States also has lower graduation rates, and a smaller share of graduates obtaining science and engineering degrees, than most of its Group of Seven peers.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

China, meanwhile, has doubled the number of professionals — including Ph.D. students — engaged in research and development to 4 million over the past decade. That’s 10 times the increase achieved in the United States.

While many U.S. lawmakers accuse China of stealing intellectual copyright to close the tech gap, the numbers suggest that it’s happening in other ways, too.

“Without investment in education and research, trade tariffs aren’t going to maintain America’s economic edge,” said Tom Orlik, chief economist at Bloomberg Economics.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.