This story is from the 2019 Access FYI: FedEx Young Innovators List. Explore more from this issue
Timelapse of German highway

Germany: No. 1 for Innovation

The World Economic Forum places the country ahead of all others — and explains why.

Timelapse of German highway


Number scored out of 100 in the innovation pillar of the 2019 Global Competitiveness Report — the highest number in the world

German automobiles are known for going 0–55 mph at breakneck speed. A similar ability to accelerate quickly from idea generation to commercialization made the country the world’s most innovative economy in 2019, according to the World Economic Forum. Germany scored 87.5 out of 100 in the innovation pillar of the organization’s Global Competitiveness Report — the highest in the world. The United States came in second; Switzerland third.

Germany’s position as the world’s top innovator, the organization says, is largely a result of the sheer volume of idea generation within its auto industry. Driverless vehicles, digitally networked mobility and electric mobility are just a few of the technological advancements that have kept the country at the forefront of auto engineering.

Some of the factors feeding this success might seem surprising. Higher customer expectations, for example, challenge companies to keep innovating. And German political leadership helped grease the proverbial wheels. While some governments have responded to the global economic crisis by cutting R&D spending, Germany has actually increased federal funding for e-mobility and enterprise projects.

All of this speaks to a larger cultural zeitgeist: According to the World Economic Forum, the speed at which countries can adopt new ideas, methods and products will give them a competitive edge as we head into the next industrial revolution.

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