The United States is ranked sixth in the world in innovation and competitiveness, behind Singapore, Sweden and South Korea, according to a new study by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF).

The study measured sixteen indicators in areas like educational attainment, research and development, venture capital investment, economic policy and foreign investment.

Education was one area the United States lagged in, placing eighth in percent of adults aged 25-34 with an advanced degree. That was behind France, Spain and Russia. Since 1999, the United States only grew 3 percent in that category, making it fifteenth on the list of growth rates in higher education attainment.

Corporate investment in research and development was another criteria in which America declined. Measured as a percentage of GDP, the United States placed fifth, behind Germany and South Korea. But in terms of a percent change over the last seven years, the United States lost 5 percent, placing it seventeenth on a list of 22.

The conclusion of the study was that the United States made the least progress in innovation and competition over the last decade of any of the 40 countries or regions studied.

The study offers a slate of policy recommendations to improve U.S. competitiveness, including national and regional support for entrepreneurship development and workforce training. Robert D. Atkinson, who is president of the ITIF and author of the study, also recommends openness to high-skilled immigrants, noting that while there may be an ample workforce in the current downturn, there is still a long term need for immigrants with ideas.

Some in the scientific community say the government should take note of these findings. It's debatable whether studies like the ITIF's have a major impact on government, but these innovation activists believe the Obama administration opens the door for greater academic influence on policy.

"The role of academia in the political debate is once again back in vogue," said Thomas D. Kuczmarski, an innovation consultant and professor at Northwestern University's Kellogg Graduate School of Management. "We no longer have a government that's run by ideology. It's run by intellect these days."