Now in its 19th year, the European Innovation Scoreboard (EIS) is the European Commission's main tool for tracking innovation performance across the continent and beyond.
Every year at UNU-MERIT we gather data along 27 indicators, covering a broad range of innovation and related activities including framework conditions like education, R&D investments and other innovation expenditures. We also consider intellectual assets like patents and trademarks, as well as innovation impacts like employment in knowledge-intensive activities and exports of high-tech goods and services.
Since 2011, the performance of 25 EU Member States has steadily improved -- most strongly in Greece, Latvia, Malta and Lithuania (despite a small decline in 2018). Overall the EU has increased its innovation score thanks in large part to improvements in business environments, broadband penetration and opportunity-driven entrepreneurship. There is also a clear convergence process, with weaker performing countries closing the gap with traditionally stronger countries.
"The first pilot Scoreboard was released in 2000 and I’ve been one of the lead authors since 2001. We started with the EU15 countries, gradually increasing to 28, then to neighbouring states and other major economies...
The latest editions cover Serbia and Ukraine, and in future we'd like to include countries from the Western Balkans like Montenegro and Bosnia & Herzegovina -- but that's an issue because right now we don't have enough data for those countries."
Countries are divided into four performance groups. Innovation Leaders perform well above the EU average across all the indicators and include Sweden, Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands and Sweden. The second group are the Strong Innovators, most of which perform above the EU average but not as well as the Innovation leaders. Here we mostly find countries in northwest Europe, such as Belgium, Germany and Ireland.
Moderate Innovators perform below the EU average and mainly include countries in Southern and Eastern Europe, such as Italy and Spain in the South and Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland in the East. Modest Innovators perform below half of the EU average and include only two countries, Bulgaria and Romania.
Compared to the 2018 edition, four countries have changed performance group. Luxembourg and the UK dropped from being Innovation Leaders to merely Strong Innovators, while Slovenia dropped from the Strong to the Moderate Innovators group. At the same time, Estonia moved up from the Moderate to the Strong Innovators grouping.
We also compare the EU as a whole to non-European countries like the USA, Japan and South Korea. The EU has lagged behind Japan and South Korea for many years and, quite frankly, the gap is not getting any smaller.
However, this year the EU outperforms the USA for the first time. The Americans enjoyed a significant lead about a decade ago, but that has steadily fallen away -- partly because tertiary education rates have been improving more quickly across the EU. Although the EU's lead over the USA is small, predictions show that it will increase in the coming years.
The EU also has a performance lead over Brazil, China, India and Russia -- but China is rapidly closing the gap with the EU. You see patent applications, trademarks and industrial designs growing at a higher rate in China than across the EU.
The report also considers other European and neighbouring countries. Switzerland is the best performer in this category, scoring particularly well on public-private co-publications, foreign doctorate students, and lifelong learning.
Iceland, Israel and Norway figure as Strong Innovators. The performance of Norway relative to the EU in 2011 has increased strongly by 25.6%, whereas the relative performance of both Iceland (-2.9%) and Israel has declined (-4.5%).
Further down the scale are Serbia and Turkey in the category of Moderate Innovators -- and for both countries performance relative to the EU has increased strongly by 19.9% and 9.1%, respectively.
Meanwhile Ukraine and North Macedonia are classified as Modest Innovators. Ukraine, for example, struggles with R&D expenditure in the public sector and SME innovations, particularly in terms of marketing, products and processes.
"...under the next EU budget, the European Commission proposed an ambitious €100 billion research and innovation programme, Horizon Europe. It will promote innovation by identifying ground-breaking ideas and making them scale up and open up new markets...
EU cohesion policy funds will be another essential instrument to unleash innovation in all regions of Europe. Other programmes such as the EU Space Programme, the European Defence Fund, the Digital Europe Programme will be key to boost also investment in key strategic technologies.
Building a business friendly environment for companies to start up and scale up will remain a priority. Our initiatives on improving access to finance and boosting venture capital investment in the EU are already bearing fruits.
The Commission is planning to complement these with a European Scale-Up Action for Risk Capital (ESCALAR) to enable venture capital funds to increase their investment capacity."