Two main conclusions emerge from the 2017 European Innovation Scorecard published last week by the European Commission.
First, the EU’s overall record on innovation is improving, albeit slowly, but huge differences remain between the best and worst performing member states and regions.
Second, in global terms, the EU could catch up with the US over the next two years. However, the performance leads of South Korea and Japan are likely to increase even further. China shows the fastest progress in international comparisons, with Russia, Brazil, India and South Africa all catching up with the EU.
The annual innovation scoreboard compares the performance of 28 EU countries bench-marked against each other and major international competitors. Twenty-seven indicators, distinguishing between ten innovation dimensions in four main categories, are used to rank order countries in terms of progress being made:
- Framework conditions capturing the main drivers of innovation performance such as human resources, attractive research systems and innovation-friendly environments.
- Investments including public and private investment in research and innovation, external finance/support and own-resource investments.
- Innovation activities and efforts at company level, covering three dimensions: innovators, linkages and intellectual assets.
- Impacts illustrating how innovation translates into benefits for the economy as a whole: employment impacts and sales effects.
Using these criteria, overall innovation performance was found to have improved in 15 countries, though large differences exist between member states.
Four main innovation performance groups were identified:
- Innovation Leaders – Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom performing 20% or more above the EU average;
- Strong Innovators – with the innovation performance of Austria, Belgium, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, and Slovenia being above or close to the EU average;
- Moderate Innovators – with Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia and Spain showing an innovation performance below the EU average;
- Modest Innovators – the innovation performance of Bulgaria and Romania is well below 50% of the EU average.
Switzerland continues to set the pace for innovation in Europe with the UK jumping into the leader group for the first time mainly because of the strength of its hi-tech sector.
Worryingly, the report concludes that the gap between the best and worst performing member states shows no sign of narrowing.
A more detailed summary of key findings can be found here – European Innovation Scoreboard.