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Top 5 most innovative countries from Latin America

Don't worry, we speak : Español (Spanish), too!

Contxto – There has never been a better and worse time for innovation than 2020. While Covid-19 has pushed many startups to innovate and bring fantastic solutions in healthcare, education, and e-commerce other verticals have taken the back seat for the medium term.

And within these unusual circumstances, the 2020 Global Innovation Index (GII) was recently published to tell the world the who’s who in innovation. So which countries from Latin America take the lead in innovation? 

The answers may surprise you, so keep reading.

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Latin America and innovation

Of course highly developed countries—Switzerland, Sweden, and the United States—respectively took the top three ranks. But the GII also found that the Asian region is scaling heavily in innovation, as are 8 economies from Africa.

Meanwhile, Latin America only had one country (Costa Rica) as an outperformer.  Moreover, no Latam country makes the top 50.

The first of the region to appear on the list does so at 54th place. Something else worth noting is that as a whole, one of Latin America’s biggest weaknesses is its institutions. Call it bureaucracy, corruption, or all of the above, that stuff is suffocating innovation.

All of this is concerning because, despite a lot that’s been achieved (and that we’ve covered here at Contxto), Latam still has its work cut out when compared to other parts of the globe.

According to the 2020 Global Innovation Index, these are the top five most innovative countries from Latin America:

  1. Chile (54th globally)
  2. Mexico (55th globally)
  3. Costa Rica (56th globally)
  4. Brazil (62nd globally)
  5. Colombia (68th globally)

My two cents on Latam innovation

Clearly the trouble with innovation this year is that with Covid-19, investments are slowing down and governments may make budget cuts on R&D as other projects (mainly in healthcare) are prioritized.

Although as the GII points out, innovation stems from government involvement not just VCs and businesses doing all the work. In that sense, it’s easy to understand why Chile is number one. Government-funded programs like Start-Up Chile really push its startup ecosystem and innovation.

Meanwhile, runner up Mexico shines in infrastructure, its government’s increasingly online presence, and market sophistication.

Costa Rica has various public programs to stimulate innovation in areas such as clean energy, cybersecurity, and bioeconomy. Add in its relatively stable government institutions and it’s easy to understand why it earned third place.

Brazil is in fourth. It shines for its science and tech cluster in São Paulo. The abundance of startups located in the area should be a big giveaway of its innovative potential. The country as a whole has brownie points in terms of business sophistication and human capital.

Last but not least is Colombia in fifth place. The country fares well in business and market sophistication. It also earned recognition (and its ranking) because of efforts towards developing its infrastructure.

But what do you think? Do you agree with the GII’s rankings? What will it take for Latam to climb higher?

Related articles: Tech and startups from Chile!

-ML

Mariana López
My topic darlings are startup management, edtech, and all-things pop culture. J Balvin is Latin America's best reggaetonero and I dare you to convince me otherwise.

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