Reuters International

A statue of late Chairman Mao Zedong is pictured at Beijing University of Chemical Technology in Beijing, China, August 4, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee AUNI

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By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) - China has broken into the world's top 25 innovative economies for the first time, thanks to investments in education and research and development that have translated into new patents and licenses, a study said on Monday.

The world's second-largest economy is catching up to traditional innovation front-runners, who were led again this year by Switzerland, Sweden, Britain and the United States, said the annual report by the U.N.'s World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), INSEAD Business School and Cornell University.

More than 100 countries are ranked according to 82 indicators of innovation, which is critical to driving growth in a competitive globalised world, said "The Global Innovation Index 2016". China's move up from 29th last year marks the first time a middle-income country has joined the top 25.

"Let me point to the performance of China, in coming in at number 25 in the rankings, is now joining the upper income group of countries that have traditionally dominated the top slots in the global innovation index," the WIPO director-general, Francis Gurry, told a news conference.

"That of course is in keeping with all of the developments that we have seen in China in recent years, including the current enormous emphasis on innovation as a major component in the transition of the Chinese economy from 'Made in China' to 'Created in China'," he said.

China's innovation indicators show "consistent steady improvement", Gurry said, adding: "And there's no reason to think that that will not continue."

Other emerging economies are climbing the list of efficient innovators, including India, which jumped to 66th place from 81st.

"China breaking into the top 25 is just a harbinger of more to come. The significant progress made by India, plus 15 places, is indeed a sign that we are going see more from emerging countries in the field of innovation years to come, and that's part of globalisation," said Bruno Lanvin, INSEAD's executive director for global indices.

Growth worldwide is likely to remain slow, highlighting the need for healthy R & D budgets, Lanvin said.

"To simplify things, one could say that we live in a world where emerging countries need to invent their future and mature countries need to re-invent their models," he said.

"The main challenges of mass unemployment, especially for younger people, and other types of challenges cannot be faced in the absence of an engine, and innovation is one of the possible engines here."

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, editing by Larry King)

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