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In this extremely technical industry, people remain the key ingredient

What matters most in this industry is … its people.” Those words, from Stephen M. Sammut, senior fellow in healthcare management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania (“Biotechnology’s Crucial Question,” Scientific American Worldview, 2015), should be a mantra for anyone hoping to thrive in the biotech arena. It’s common sense that a country lacking workers trained in biotechnology has little chance of becoming a leader in the field.

We base this category of the Scorecard on five components. To determine “post-secondary science graduates per capita,” we used UNESCO figures, divided by the population (U.S. Census Bureau International Database). For “Ph.D. 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 want to stay in the United States following graduation there, as reported by the U.S. National Science Foundation. So a lower score in talent retention would mean that more Ph.D. graduates did express a desire to stay in the United States, which creates “brain drain” for the home country of those graduates. The purpose of this metric is not to measure the attractiveness of the United States—wanting to stay in the United States after earning a Ph.D. doesn’t ensure being able to, so some of those young Ph.D.s still go home or to another country—rather, it does give us vital information on how graduates view opportunities in their native country. India and China have traditionally led in the brain-drain metric, with more than 90% of Ph.D. graduates not wishing to repatriate after their studies in the United States. Last year, Ukraine had the highest level of brain drain, but this year it shares third place with Russia.

The same countries make up this year’s top five in Education/Workforce as last year, and the top three remain in the same order, with the United States at the top. The only top-five difference is that Australia leapfrogged Luxembourg to land in fourth place.