Nordic countries top EU innovation ranking

Cutting-edge innovation: Scandinavian countries lead the EU’s innovation index.

An annual exercise to assess which countries in the EU and beyond have created the best environments for innovation in their private and public sectors hailed Sweden as the EU’s innovation leader.

The Nordic countries, Finland and Denmark, also top the index, along with Belgium, suggesting that the right conditions for innovation – and the economic growth that generally accompanies it – are geographically concentrated. in northern and northwestern Europe.

The European Innovation Scorecard (EIS) has been compiled by academics for the European Commission since 2001, examining a series of indicators such as fast broadband penetration, number of patents filed, R&D spending in the public sectors and private, and the proportion of the workforce employed in IT.

Overall, the HIA shows that EU countries are making progress in supporting innovation, with an average innovation performance increasing by 12.5% ​​in 2021 compared to 2014. Cyprus, Estonia, Greece, Italy and Lithuania top the ranking of most improved countries after increasing their scores. by 25% or more, while Belgium, Croatia, Finland and Sweden increased their level of play from 15 to 25%.

Optimizing productivity

According to the European Commission, the criteria defend openness, competitiveness and the cultivation of human talent, and the results inform the development of innovation policies – also seen as vital to creating a sustainable and inclusive post-Covid recovery across the board. the EU.

About two-thirds of productivity growth in Europe in recent years has been due to innovation, according to a 2020 report, EU performance in science, research and innovation, who found that innovation boosts economic resilience and competitiveness.

Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for the Internal Market, said: “European innovations like the technologies at the heart of new COVID-19 vaccines have been crucial in combating and overcoming the current pandemic.

“The improvement in the innovation performance of the EU is a very positive signal. Investing in innovation is investing in our ability to be at the cutting edge of technology for a sustainable, digital and resilient economy and society.

In addition to the 27 Member States, the EIS covers the near neighbors and EU satellites: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Israel, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.

Global comparisons

EIS researchers also analyze the world’s major nations. Looking at their performance against the EU average, they found that the EU offers a more fertile environment for innovation than China, Brazil, South Africa, Russia and India.

On the other hand, South Korea, Canada, Australia, the US and Japan all have a lead over the EU, with South Korea finishing the assessment with a score of 21% au- above the EU average.

The indicators measured within the framework of the EIS include the award of doctorates in STEM subjects, the investment of venture capital and public funding, the share of innovative projects related to the improvement of the environment and the turnover jobs among science and technology specialists – all these factors have registered an increase in 2021.

The EIS methodology also takes into account public and private investments in education, research and skills development; innovation partnerships between companies and with academia; and strong digital infrastructure and skills.

The countries where the public sector attracts the most R&D investments are Denmark, Iceland and Germany, where “R&D intensity” is around 1% of GDP. Compared to 2020, 19 countries improved their performance on this measure during the COVID pandemic.

Private investment from venture capital sources is most likely to support innovative ideas in Cyprus, UK, Luxembourg and Finland, where investment accounts for around 0.25% of GDP, compared to an average European 0.141%. In 2020, 22 countries recorded an increase in venture capital investments.

If we consider direct public funding or tax breaks for companies pursuing R&D, the EU average is 0.164% of GDP. But France and the UK had the most generous regimes, with direct support for business R&D costs amounting to 0.30% of GDP.

The average number of companies with fast broadband penetration was 23% in the EU, while Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland and Portugal all scored at least 40%. Greece and Ukraine lag behind in this category, with less than 10%.

Impatient for patents

The researchers also looked at the number of patents filed under the Patent Cooperation Treaty. Levels were highest in Israel, Sweden and Finland, at around 7.5 claims per billion GDP. On average in the EU there have been 2.96 patent applications.

But while COVID-19 in general sparked innovation, it appears to have lowered the number of patent applications: compared to 2020, 27 countries in the survey filed fewer applications.

The EIS also measured environmentally related technologies as a percentage of all technologies, rating the EU at 11.2% on average, while Malta, Bulgaria and Denmark led the way with 20%. However, this is another category that saw a decline in 2020, with 24 countries recording a decline.

In terms of education and skills, the countries with the largest cohort of young professionals with tertiary education are Cyprus, Luxembourg, Ireland, Lithuania and Norway, where at least 50% of those aged 25 to 34 years are graduates. The EU average for this indicator is 28.9%.

The EIS is a project of the Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs of the European Commission.

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