Tunis/Tunisia — Losing ground in terms of innovation, Tunisia should, according to a recent note from the Tunisian Institute of Competitiveness and Quantitative Studies (ITCEQ), introduce a series of reforms aimed at improving its performance in innovative fields, starting with a review of its education system by orienting it strongly towards science and technology.
Tunisia was ranked 71st in the Global Innovation Index 2021 (GII), published last September, which ranks countries according to their innovation capabilities, thus falling back 6 places in one year (65th in 2020). It was ranked 7th among the 34 economies of the lower middle income group and 3rd in the Arab world.
The note on Tunisia's score for this decade, entitled "Global innovation index 2021: Tunisia in the top 3 of Arab countries", published in December 2021, by the ITCEQ, shows that the trend in terms of innovation is rather downward and that for this year, Tunisia records the second lowest score since 2011. This trend goes hand in hand with the results of the World Economic Forum's report on the Global Competitiveness Index for the sub-indicator "Innovation Capacity", where Tunisia has suffered a decline in its ranking during the same period. This drop coincides with the drop in state spending on R&D during the same period.
The areas where Tunisia has been the least successful, according to the "Global innovation index 2021", are essentially, on the input side of innovation, infrastructure, market sophistication, credit, investment, business sophistication (innovation linkages, knowledge absorption, cluster development, joint ventures/strategic alliances/GDP, intellectual property payments as a % of trade, ICT imports as a % of trade ...).
As regards the outputs of innovation (Production of creativity), the ITCEQ document also notes a slight drop in the score observed (20.6 against 21.1 in 2020 and 24.1 in 2019) and a drop of 17 positions in one year (80th against 63rd in 2020).
To remedy these shortcomings, still, according to the ITCEQ, Tunisia should revise and improve the education system and orient it strongly towards modern science and technology based on R&D and innovation and by ensuring that the fields in which students specialise and the study programmes correspond to the real needs of the economy to enable Tunisia to rank among the leading innovative countries.
It should also further strengthen public-private research and the inter-sectoral mobility of public researchers, reform the financial system in order to allow different exit options for companies, including the introduction on the capital markets, alleviate the administrative procedures related to SICARs and FCPRs (Fonds Commun de Placement à Risque) while adapting them to the specific nature of R&D and innovation activities.
It would also benefit from improving the legal and fiscal framework of risk capital to allow, in particular, SICARs to benefit efficiently from several means of participation in the capital of companies, to invest abroad and to exit the capital of companies within a reasonable timeframe, and to grant more transparency and professionalism to conventional spin-off practices to better adapt them to R&D and innovation activities.
The Global Innovation Index 2021 (GII), published on September 20, 2021, is co-edited by Cornell University, INSEAD and the World Intellectual Property Organisation WIPO and covered 132 economies. It aims to capture the multidimensional facets of innovation and provide tools that can assist in the adoption of policies to promote long-term output growth, productivity improvement and job creation.