Since 2007 economists from Cornell University, INSEAD and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) have issued the annual Global Innovation Index (GII), a report that sizes up the innovative capacities and results of the world's economies. This year's report includes data on 142 economies, which represents 94.9 percent of the world's population and 98.7 percent of global GDP. How does one measure something as abstract as “innovation”? The GII researchers use 84 data points ranging from political stability to ease of starting a business to the number of Wikipedia edits originating there every year.

This year's big-picture findings: R&D spending has rebounded around the world after suffering in the wake of the global financial crisis. The same high-income usual suspects—the wealthiest European countries in particular—dominate the top of the list. The BRIC nations—Brazil, the Russian Federation, India and China—all slipped in this year's rankings. R&D spending is growing more quickly in emerging markets than in rich countries. And unexpected players such as Costa Rica, Uganda and Moldova are doing impressively well with comparatively little.