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Innovation progress – more work needed - 26/03/2013

Workers passing through walls with EU stars © EU

EU makes progress as a whole, but some member countries need to do more to catch up and become more competitive.

Most EU countries continue to get better at fostering innovation. But some are not doing enough and are starting to fall behind, according to an annual research and innovation scoreboard .

The scoreboard is a means of helping EU countries identify both key innovation drivers and where to concentrate efforts to stimulate growth and job creation. It compares countries based on research and development (R&D) investment levels, along with 23 other factors.

Investment gap

The ranking shows traditionally innovative countries continue to improve. For others, the ability to innovate is rising at a slower pace – or has even fallen.

As in previous years, Sweden remains at the top, followed by Germany, Denmark and Finland. Meanwhile Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia have increased innovation.

Innovation drivers

Small businesses and the ability to turn ideas into commercial products and services are the main drivers of innovation growth. Top ranked countries also share a strong focus on supporting R&D. Business and universities play a key role in supporting national innovation efforts.

Compared with other EU countries, the business sectors of all innovation leaders have higher levels of R&D investment and apply for more patents. They also have well-developed higher education sectors and strong links between industry and science.

Innovation Union

Becoming more innovative – and removing bottlenecks that prevent good ideas from reaching the market – is at the heart of the EU’s ‘innovation union’ strategy to become more competitive and boost growth and jobs.

A progress report on the strategy shows it is on track, with implementation having started on 80% of the proposals. The approach includes promoting partnerships between the public and private sectors, easing access to funding and skilled workers, reducing red tape and lowering the cost of patenting new ideas.

The strategy attempts to close the gap with global innovation leaders South Korea, the US and Japan. South Korea’s lead over the EU is increasing, but since 2008 the EU has been catching up with the US and Japan.

Industrial innovation in the EU

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