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Nordic countries top ‘intellectual capital’ rank

Denmark and other Scandinavian nations will prosper in the future, shows study on innovation. It also debunks the hype over China and India

If innovation and knowledge are the paths to economic growth, then the Nordic countries will do well in the future. This is according to a new book by Swedish academic Leif Edvinsson of the University of Lund in Sweden and Carol Yeh-Yun Lin of the National Chengchi University in Taiwan.

The book therefore contradicts prevailing pessimistic projections of the relative decline of Europe and the US.

Investing in intellectual capital can ensure not just economic growth but quality growth that can be sustained, according to Leif Edvinsson, who is interviewed in University World News.

»A country may be wealthy today, but what about tomorrow? Knowledge and human capital must be sustainable,« he says.

Universities train human brains

In his view universities are important »not as mass education, but as training for the human brain – universities are the back office rather than the front office of innovation and development,« he says to University World News.

In their book National Intellectual Capital: A comparison of 40 countries the top 10 nations over the last decade and a half in terms of intellectual capital are, in order: Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, United States, Singapore, Iceland (until the financial meltdown in 2008), The Netherlands, Norway and Canada.

The authors go against the idea that the number of graduates is the only proxy for measuring future prosperity.

Edvinsson’s and Lin claim that their methodology gives a deeper understanding of where innovation and growth will come from in the future. »Intellectual capital is much more about quality of education and human experience than the number of people in higher education,« Edvinsson says.

Culture of risk

The role of the university is ‘amplified’ in a country’s intellectual capital by additional features, which encourage production and innovation, Edvinsson believes.

These include a country’s infrastructure, particularly communications and computing infrastructure, networks which include trade but also university and research networks, and ability to renew or innovate with research and development underpinned by the financial and economic conditions to do so.

»There is a kind of cultural dimension that plays a huge role in intellectual capital, which includes openness, risk taking and willingness to renew,« he says.

China and India score lower

Nordic intellectual capital has increased over the 14-year period studied.

»As a group they also invest the highest percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) in education (5.4 per cent -7.4 per cent), have the highest ratio of broadband subscribers, the highest level of e-readiness and they invest the highest percentage of GDP in Research and Development (1.57 per cent -3.64 per cent),« he notes in his book.

Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are ranked 14, 21 and 17 respectively. China (ranked 36 in the world on intellectual capital) and India (ranked 40) are relatively weak in education and training, despite recent hype about their higher education sectors, the University World News writes.

See a video interview with Carol Yeh-Yun Lin here.
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