Waterloo, Canada - New research released this month from the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) finds that innovation is the single most important element in the emerging global economic contest.

CIGI's newest Working Paper, Science and Technology Policies, National Competitiveness, and the Innovation Divide, authored by Senior Fellow Carin Holroyd, analyzes innovation strategies adopted by three very different countries - Japan, Canada and Nigeria - and how these nations are trying to mobilize human and financial resources to achieve economic success.

Driven by the rapid and unprecedented changes in the global economy, developed countries are shifting political support from heavy industry to nanotechnology, biotechnology, digital enterprises and alternative energy solutions. Analyzing this trend, Holroyd concludes that there is a growing "nano-divide" and "bio-tech gap" that will far exceed the much publicized digital divide.

Leading industrialized countries invest between one and three per cent of their GDP in science and technology research. Despite promising developments such as plans for a series of African Institutes of Science and Technology, also known as Nelson Mandela Institutes, most developing countries, such as Nigeria, devote only 0.1 per cent or less of their GDP and lack the financial resources and scientific and technological heritage  to compete with wealthier nations.

Additionally, the industrialized world is drawing tens of thousands of scientists and technologists out of the developing world each year, broadening the innovation divide and lessening the chance that these countries will be able to compete in the years to come. The innovation gaps, the author writes, are significant and serious. "The concerns raised by the earlier debate over the digital divide could pale in comparison to those generated by the innovation revolution."

Since economic prosperity in the coming decades will rely heavily on the ability of national economies to replace labour-intensive manufacturing with high-technology- based investments, Holroyd concludes that the widening innovation divide requires a significant response from governments and international institutions in order to create greater and more equitable global prosperity. She suggests that significant collaborative steps are needed to reduce the divide, and that "perhaps there is a role for an international scientific governance institution that can help ensure access to basic scientific infrastructure and recent discoveries for all countries."

The research also finds that Canada is on the right path but remains heavily dependent on the substantial commitment of government funds for scientific and technological research, with a less than impressive track record on the corporate side.

For more information and to download this and other CIGI Working Papers, please visit: http://www.cigionline.org/publications

The opinions expressed in this article/multimedia are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of CIGI or its Board of Directors.