Smart Scotland climbs 15 places in world league
By Caroline Bisson
Scotland appears to be reaping some dividends from its Smart Successful Scotland strategy as the country climbed 15 positions in an annual competitiveness league table.
The Scottish economy ranked 89th – up from 104th place in 2003 – in the third annual World Knowledge Competitiveness Index. The WKCI uses 19 variables to compare investments in both people and technology in 125 leading economies.
Criteria examined include employment in IT and computer manufacturing per thousand inhabitants, per capita expenditure on R&D, patents registered per million inhabitants and broadband access per thousand inhabitants. According to the report by Pontypridd-based economics think-tank Robert Huggins Associates, knowledge is now the key ingredient underlying the competitiveness of regions and firms across the globe.
Although keen to praise Scotland’s performance, Robert Huggins, chief executive of RHA admitted: “Scotland has been flattered by a new ‘private-equity’ benchmark introduced this year to evaluate the overall access to financial capital.” The country scored very well according to this particular indicator, coming in 26th overall. It also benefited from increased government investment in research and development throughout the year, moving up from 54th to 44th place.
But Scotland remains well below par on both the world and European stage, ranking 23rd out of 45 regions of Europe. US regions dominated the competiveness league yet again this year. They secured 30 top positions, with San Francisco holding firm at number one for a second consecutive year, and Boston climbing one place to second.
Meanwhile, only eight European regions featured in the the top 50, with Sweden’s Stockholm in 15th place and Finland’s Uusimaa (Helsinki) at 19th, leading the way. Other regions of the UK – including southeast England (40th), London (46th) and eastern England (50th) – improved their rankings due to an increase in R&D expenditure and access to private equity.
But labour productivity remains a major issue for the UK and Europe as a whole, added Huggins. According to the report, Asian-Pacific regions are expected to catch up with their European counterparts on the WKCI, with Tokyo (38th) and Shiga (39th) already breaking through.
“Compared with the more competitive position of the North American regions, Europe’s position against Asia appears fragile”, said Dr Hiro Izushi, co-founder of the WKCI. “Unless Europe takes action to recalibrate its competitive strategy, it will undoubtedly fall in the league table of knowledge-based economies.”
But according to Scottish Enterprise, Scotland is ranked lower because it includes urban and rural areas that pull down the scores of the indicators; if Scotland’s city regions were to be benchmarked, it would almost certainly be ranked higher. Huggins agreed, but noted that the classification favours Europe. “We have also seen the appearance of super-regions around cities such as Stockholm and Paris,” he said. “Without these, Europe would be ranked much lower than it already is.”
Source: Sunday Herald, www.sundayherald.com