Innovation performance in the EU has improved but the innovation divide between Member States is widening

Brussels, 27-3-2013 — / — Innovation performance in the EU has improved year on year in spite of the continuing economic crisis, but the innovation divide between Member States is widening. This is the result of the European Commission Innovation Union Scoreboard 2013, a ranking of EU Member States. While the most innovative countries have further improved their performance, others have shown a lack of progress. The overall ranking within the EU remains relatively stable, with Sweden at the top, followed by Germany, Denmark and Finland. Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia are the countries that have most improved since last year. Drivers of innovation growth in the EU include SMEs and the commercialisation of innovations, together with excellent research systems. However the fall in business and venture capital investment over the years 2008-2012 has negatively influenced innovation performance.

European Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, said: “This year’s results show that the economic crisis has negatively impacted innovation activity in some parts of Europe. Investment in innovation is crucial if we want to maintain our global competitiveness and restore growth in Europe. We need to encourage entrepreneurship as SMEs have been a key driver of innovation.”

Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, responsible for Research, Innovation and Science, said: “Innovation should now be at the heart of all Member States’ policy agendas. Our latest State of the Innovation Union report, also published today, shows we made progress in 2012 on some of the big ticket items like the Unitary Patent and new rules for venture capital funds, but we need to go further in order to avoid an innovation divide in Europe.”

The European Commission has also today published a report complementary to the Scoreboard. The State of the Innovation Union report shows that the Commission has already largely delivered on the Innovation Union flagship commitments.

For individual summaries of the innovation performance of all 27 Member States, and other European countries: MEMO/13/274


The Innovation Union Scoreboard 2013 places Member States into the following four country groups:

  • Innovation leaders: Sweden, Germany, Denmark and Finland, all show a performance well above that of the EU average.
  • Innovation followers: Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, the UK, Austria, Ireland, France, Slovenia, Cyprus and Estonia all perform above the EU average.
  • Moderate innovators: Italy, Spain, Portugal, Czech Republic, Greece, Slovakia, Hungary, Malta and Lithuania perform below the EU average.
  • Modest innovators: The performance of Poland, Latvia, Romania and Bulgaria is well below that of the EU average.
Figure: EU Member States’ innovation performance

EU Member States' innovation performance

Note: Average performance is measured using a composite indicator building on data for 24 indicators, going from a lowest possible performance of 0 to a maximum possible performance of 1. Average performance reflects performance in 2010/2011 (due to a lag in data availability).

What makes innovation leaders successful?

The most innovative countries in the EU share a number of strengths in their national research and innovation systems, including a key role for business innovation efforts and those of the higher education sector. The business sectors of all innovation leaders perform very well in research & development (R&D) expenditure and patent applications. They also share a well-developed higher education sector and strong linkages between industry and science.

International comparisons with the EU

A comparison with other European countries confirms Switzerland’s position as the overall innovation leader that continually outperforms all EU countries. This year’s results also again show that South Korea, the US, and Japan have a performance lead over the EU.

South Korea’s lead over the EU is increasing, but since 2008 the EU has been able to close almost half its gap with the US and Japan. The EU still lags considerably behind the global leaders notably in terms of business R&D expenditures, public-private co-publications, and patents, as well as in tertiary education. The EU continues to perform better than Australia, Canada, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

This lead has been declining with China, remained stable with the other BRICS countries and has been increasing compared to Australia and Canada.

The 2013 Innovation Union Scoreboard draws currently on 24 indicators that are grouped into three main categories and 8 dimensions:

“Enablers”, i.e. the basic building blocks which allow innovation to take place (Human resources, open, excellent and attractive research systems, and finance and support);

“Firm activities”, which capture innovation efforts in European firms (firm investments, linkages & entrepreneurship, and intellectual assets); and

“Outputs” which show how this translates into benefits for the economy as a whole (innovators and economic effects, including employment).

For further information

The full report of the Innovation Union Scoreboard 2013 is available at:

Innovation Union ScoreboardState of Innovation Union ReportInnovation UnionEurope 2020

Contacts :

Carlo Corazza (+32 2 295 17 52)

Sara Tironi (+32 2 299 04 03)

Michael Jennings (+32 2 296 33 88) Twitter: @ECSpokesScience

Monika Wcislo (+32 2 295 56 04)

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