R & D personnel

Data extracted in June 2015. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: September 2016.
Table 1: Researchers in full-time equivalents
(FTE), by sector, 2013 (1)
Source: Eurostat (tsc00004)
Figure 1: Proportion of R&D personnel by sector, 2013
(% of labour force)
Source: Eurostat (tsc00002)
Figure 2: Gender analysis of researchers, 2012
(% of total researchers, based on head count)
Source: Eurostat (rd_p_femres)
Table 2: Human resources in science and technology, 2010–13
Source: Eurostat (hrst_st_ncat) and (lfsa_egan)
Table 3: Science and technology graduates, 2007 and 2012
(tertiary graduates in science and technology per 1 000 persons aged 20–29 years)
Source: Eurostat (tps00188)
Table 4: PhD students
(ISCED level 6), 2012
Source: Eurostat (educ_enrl5)

This article analyses data on research and development (R & D) personnel, researchers and human resources in science and technology (HRST) in the European Union (EU). Statistics on science and technology personnel are key indicators for measuring the knowledge-based economy and its developments, for example, providing information on the supply of, and demand for, highly qualified science and technology specialists.

Main statistical findings

R & D personnel

The number of researchers in the EU-28 has increased in recent years: there were 1.73 million researchers (in full-time equivalents (FTE)) employed in the EU-28 in 2013 (see Table 1), which marked an increase of 501.7 thousand (or 41.0 %) when compared with 2003.

An analysis of R & D personnel in the EU-28 by sector in 2013 shows that there was a high concentration of researchers in the business enterprise sector (48 %) and the higher education sector (39 %), while 12 % of the total number of researchers were working in the government sector. The relative importance of the different sectors varied considerably across the EU Member States, with business enterprises accounting for three fifths or more of all researchers in Sweden, Malta, Austria, Ireland (2012 data), Denmark, France and the Netherlands. By contrast, the government sector employed the highest share of researchers in Bulgaria (43 %). Around two thirds of all researchers working in Slovakia, Greece and Latvia were employed within the higher education sector, and more than half of the total number of researchers also worked in the higher education sector in Lithuania, Cyprus, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Estonia, Croatia and Poland.

R & D personnel from all sectors together made up 2.0 % of the labour force in Denmark, Finland and Luxembourg in 2013, compared with an EU-28 average of 1.1 %. Aside from these three Member States, this share ranged from 0.3 % in Romania and Cyprus to 1.6 % in Sweden (see Figure 1).

An analysis of researchers by sex shows that men accounted for 67 % of the EU-28’s workforce in 2011, three percentage points less than in 2003. Women accounted for more than half of the total number of researchers in 2012 in Latvia and Lithuania, and their share was very close to parity in Bulgaria and Croatia (see Figure 2).

Human resources in science and technology

Human resources in science and technology (HRST) provide information concerning the demand for and the supply of people with high qualifications in science and technology. More than 73 million people in the EU-28 were employed in science and technology occupations in 2013; this made up one third (34.2 %) of total employment (see Table 2). Between 2010 and 2013 there was a considerable increase in the relative importance of people classified as HRST by occupation (HRSTO) within the EU-28’s workforce, as their share rose by 3.2 percentage points.

Persons in HRST occupations accounted for over half of the workforce in Luxembourg in 2013 and for more than two fifths of the total in Denmark, Sweden and Finland, as well as in Switzerland and Norway. The lowest shares were recorded in Bulgaria and Romania, which were the only EU Member States where less than one quarter of the workforce was employed in HRST occupations.

Although the letters S and T in the official definition of HRST in the Canberra manual refer to science and technology, the definition is not restricted to science and technology in the strict sense. HRST by education covers all fields of study, in other words anybody who successfully completed a tertiary level education. The HRST ‘core’ (HRSTC) — which is made up of people who possess a tertiary level education and are employed in science and technology occupations — amounted to 46.4 million persons in 2013 across the whole of the EU-28, or over one fifth (21.6 %) of the total number of persons employed.

Concerning the HRST ‘core’, the range between countries was similar to that observed for HRST occupations. Austria and Romania were the only EU Member States to report that less than 15.0 % of those employed were HRST ‘core’ in 2013, while at the other end of the scale this share rose to 30.0 % in Finland and 40.3 % in Luxembourg (see Table 2).

Science and technology graduates

Moving away from the broad definitions of HRST, Table 3 looks at mathematics, science and technology fields of education. Within the EU-28 there were 17.1 graduates from mathematics, science and technology fields of education per 1 000 persons aged 20 to 29 years in 2012. Particularly high ratios — above 20 graduates per 1 000 persons aged 20 to 29 years — were recorded in Lithuania, Ireland, France (2011 data) and Finland. This ratio should be interpreted with care as some graduates reported by a country may be foreigners who return home following their studies and so push up the ratio in the country where they studied and pull down the ratio for their country of origin; this may explain to a large extent the very low ratio recorded in one of the smallest EU Member States, namely Luxembourg (2.8 graduates from mathematics, science and technology fields of education per 1 000 persons aged 20 to 29) and also the relatively low ratio recorded for Cyprus (9.0 %).

Doctoral students

A similar but more specific measure of a country’s potential research capability is provided by the number of doctoral students (see Table 4). There were an estimated 717 thousand doctoral students in the EU-28 in 2012, compared with levels of 492 thousand in the United States and 75 thousand in Japan.

Women accounted for 46.3 % of doctoral students in the EU-28 in 2012, a share that was not too dissimilar from that recorded in the United States, where women were on a par with men (49.7 %); by contrast, women accounted for a much lower share of doctoral students in Japan (32.8 %).

The gender split of doctoral students across the EU Member States was typically quite balanced in 2012: women accounted for more than half of all the doctoral students in 12 Member States, peaking at 58.1 % in Estonia and Lithuania. In the remaining Member States, where men were in a majority, the share of women was generally over 44 %, with just Malta (42.9 %), the Czech Republic (42.7 %) and Germany (40.5 %) below this level. In Iceland, Norway and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia more than half of all doctoral students were also women, although in Liechtenstein their share was only 29.2 %.

In relative terms, the broad group covering the fields of science, mathematics, computing, engineering, manufacturing and construction accounted for 42.1 % of the doctoral students in the EU-28 in 2012, a proportion that was higher than in any of the non-member countries shown in Table 4; in the United States the share was 38.2 % while in Japan it was 31.6 %. Among the EU Member States, this group of education fields accounted for around half of all doctoral studies in Luxembourg and Germany, while the lowest share was 29.0 % in Austria.

Data sources and availability

Statistics on science, technology and innovation are based on Decision 1608/2003/EC of the European Parliament and the Council concerning the production and development of Community statistics on science and technology. The Decision was implemented through European Commission Regulation 753/2004 on statistics on science and technology which was adopted in 2004. In 2012, a new European Commission Regulation 995/2012 concerning the production and development of Community statistics on science and technology was adopted.

Statistics on R & D personnel are compiled using guidelines laid out in the Frascati manual, published in 2002 by the OECD. R & D personnel include all persons employed directly within R & D, as well as persons supplying direct services (such as managers, administrative staff and clerical staff). For statistical purposes, indicators on R & D personnel are compiled as both head counts (HC) and as full-time equivalents (FTEs). Researchers are a subcategory of R & D personnel and are professionals engaged in the conception or creation of new knowledge, products, processes, methods and systems, and in the management of the projects concerned.

Statistics on human resources in science and technology (HRST) are compiled using guidelines laid out in the Canberra manual, prepared in cooperation between the OECD, European Commission, UNESCO and the International Labour Organisation and published in 1995. HRST data can be analysed by sex, age, region, sector of activity, occupation, educational attainment and fields of education (although not all combinations are possible). Data relating to stocks of HRST provide information on the number of HRST at a particular point in time. For HRST statistics, stock data relate to the employment status as well as the occupational and educational profiles of individuals .

HRST are defined on the basis of education and/or occupation.

HRST based on education (HRSTE) are persons having successfully completed tertiary education which is defined as levels 5a, 5b or 6 of the 1997 version of the international standard classification of education (ISCED). In November 2011, UNESCO completed work on a revised ISCED classification (ISCED 2011); note that the first data collection based on the new classification did not begin until 2014 and the data presented in this article are still based on ISCED 1997. Among other changes, ISCED 2011 proposes four levels of tertiary education compared with two levels of tertiary education in ISCED 1997.

HRST based on occupation (HRSTO) are persons who are employed in science and technology occupations as ‘professionals’ or ‘technicians and associate professionals’ within the international standard classification of occupations (ISCO-08).

Persons who fulfil both education and occupation criteria are classified as the HRST ‘core’ (HRSTC).

Information on HRST flows from education are obtained from a UNESCO/OECD/Eurostat questionnaire on education and can be used to provide a measure of the current and future supply of HRST from the education system, in terms of actual inflows (graduates from the reference period) and potential inflows (students participating in higher education during the reference period). Science and technology graduates are defined as the number of new graduates from all public and private institutions completing science and technology-related graduate and postgraduate studies in the reference year. To facilitate comparisons, the number of graduates may be expressed relative to the total number of persons aged 20–29 years and 25–29 years.

Indicators based on the number of doctoral students give an idea of the extent to which countries will have researchers at the highest level of education in the future. The data relate to the number of students in the reference year; they do not refer to the number of new graduates or to the total number (stock) of graduates in the labour market that year. The number of doctoral students is measured as students enrolled in ISCED 1997 level 6: this level concerns tertiary programmes which lead to the award of an advanced research degree, for example, a doctorate in economics. These programmes should be devoted to advanced study and original research and are not based on course-work alone; studies at the doctoral level usually require 3 to 5 years.


The European Research Area (ERA) is composed of all research and development activities, programmes and policies in Europe which involve a transnational perspective. In May 2008, the European Commission adopted a Communication to launch an initiative titled, ‘better careers and more mobility: a European partnership for researchers’ (COM(2008) 317 final). The goal of this initiative is to improve the mobility of researchers and to enhance the diffusion of knowledge throughout Europe, by: balancing demand and supply for researchers at a European level; helping create centres of excellence; and improving the skills of researchers in Europe.

In December 2008, the Competitiveness Council adopted a vision for the ERA. According to the opening statement of this vision, all players should benefit from: the ‘fifth freedom’, introducing the free circulation of researchers, knowledge and technology across the ERA; attractive conditions for carrying out research and investing in R & D intensive sectors; Europe-wide scientific competition, together with the appropriate level of cooperation and coordination. The 2020 vision for the ERA is part of the wider picture of Europe’s 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

In November 2011, the European Commission presented a successor for the 7th framework programme for research and technological development by announcing Horizon 2020, a programme for investing nearly EUR 80 000 million in research and innovation, implementing the innovation union. The Marie Sklodowska-Curie actions, under the ‘excellent science’ pillar of Horizon 2020, aim to support the career development and training of researchers — with a focus on innovation skills — in all scientific disciplines through worldwide and cross-sector mobility.

See also

Further Eurostat information


Main tables

Research and development (t_research)
Statistics on research and development (t_rd)
Human resources in Science & Technology (t_hrst)
Education (t_educ)
Education indicators - non-finance (t_educ_indic)
Science and technology graduates by sex (tps00188)


Research and development (research)
Statistics on research and development (rd)
R&D personnel at national and regional level (rd_p)
Human Resources in Science &Technology (hrst)
Stocks of HRST at national and regional levels (hrst_st)
Flows of HRST at national level (hrst_fl)
Education (educ)
Enrolments, graduates, entrants, personnel and language learning - absolute numbers (educ_isced97)
Tertiary students (ISCED 5-6) by field of education and sex (educ_enrl5)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)

Other information

External links