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People empower a nation’s current and future innovation potential

All the financial resources and advanced equipment in the world cannot replace a key ingredient of biotech success—people. Without trained researchers to spawn innovative ideas, managers to run the business side of biotech, technicians to make the products and individuals filling many other roles—a country cannot support biotechnology growth. To generate the necessary pool of people, a nation must take action. In 2004, for instance, the US Department of Labor created the National Center for the Biotechnology Workforce, and related aspects of this center continue to train tomorrow’s biotechnology professionals.

We base this category of the Scorecard on five components. For “post-secondary science graduates per capita,” we used UNESCO figures, divided by the 2013 mid-year population as sourced from the US Census Bureau International Database. For “PhD graduates in the life sciences per capita” and “R&D personnel per thousand employment,” we turned to OECD figures. To create a metric for “talent retention,” we calculated the percentage of a country’s doctoral recipients who did not express definite intentions to stay in the United States following graduation there, as reported by the US National Science Foundation. Thus, a lower score in talent retention means that more PhD graduates did express a desire to stay in the United States, which creates “brain drain” for the home country of those graduates. Not every person who wants to stay in the United States after earning a PhD finds an opportunity to stay, however, so some of those individuals still go home or to another country. India and China have traditionally led in the number of citizens not wishing to repatriate after graduate studies in the United States, but this year Ukraine takes the lead—perhaps a premonition of the country’s difficult times, which came to a head as this issue of Scientific American Worldview was being published—followed by India and China.

Last year’s leaders in the Education/Workforce category were Iceland, the United States and the United Kingdom. Although these leaders retain strong numbers, they are displaced this year by Luxembourg, Saudi Arabia and New Zealand. Also, certain countries that perform strongly in other categories really struggle here. For example, three of the Gulf countries on the Scorecard occupy three of the four bottom spots on the list, along with India. That provides these nations with a clear prescription for innovation—produce a pool of professionals, and encourage them to apply their skills domestically.

  • A Guided Tour

    Enhanced with a new guidebook and region-specific ratings, the 2016 Scorecard ventures deeper than ever to track down the latest in biotech innovation