Research and innovation statistics at regional level
Data extracted in March/April 2019.
Planned article update: September 2020.
In 2016, the highest research and development intensity in the EU was recorded in the northern German region of Braunschweig (10.36 %).
In 2016, Inner London — West recorded the highest share of researchers in the total number of persons employed (4.88 %) in the EU, followed by the Belgian region of Prov. Brabant Wallon (2.80 %).
Investing in research and innovation has the potential to improve the daily lives of millions of people, both within the European Union (EU) and elsewhere in the world, by helping to solve some of the largest societal and generational challenges. Indeed, the benefits of research and innovation increasingly form a vital part of our everyday lives: they contribute to resolve environmental threats, make food safer, lead to the development of new medicines, or provide an array of technologies that support communications and entertainment.
The EU is the world’s leading producer of scientific knowledge: it is the most open research area in the world, welcoming researchers from all over the world, while collaborating abroad with numerous international partners. However, it is often claimed that Europe faces an innovation deficit. This is not down to an absence of new ideas or discoveries, but instead reflects a lack of success in diffusing/commercialising inventions and translating them into new markets and growth opportunities.
In 2015, the European Commission unveiled three main policy goals designed to stimulate research and innovation in the EU:
- open innovation — opening-up the innovation process to people with experience in other fields (outside of academia and science) with the hope that this can be used to develop products and services that create new markets;
- open science — changing the way that scientific research is shared by introducing a new approach that is based on spreading knowledge and information as soon as it is available rather than publishing results in scientific journals after research is completed;
- open to the world — promoting international cooperation within the research community, such that Europe may access the latest knowledge, recruit the best talent and create business opportunities in emerging markets.
This was followed in 2018 by A renewed European agenda for research and innovation: Europe’s chance to shape its future (COM(2018) 306 final) which underlined the need to invest in research and innovation, by: ensuring essential public investment; supporting EU Member States to maximise their research and development (R & D) expenditure; stimulating private investment (for example through InvestEU and VentureEU); providing a simpler regulatory framework; supporting innovation procurement.
Innovation is a central feature of all cohesion policy programmes, alongside reducing the innovation differences that exist between EU regions. In the current budgetary period (2014-2020), investments under the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) are concentrated on four key thematic priorities: innovation and research, the digital agenda, support for SMEs and the low-carbon economy. European structural and investment funds (EFSI) are the central pillar of the Investment plan for Europe, promoting the regional spread of vital public investment through, among others, support for sustainable projects and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
This chapter presents statistical information analysing regional developments for a range of research and innovation-related indicators within the EU, including the following topics: R & D intensity, the number of researchers, and the share of human resources in science and technology (HRST).
Research and development intensity
Research, knowledge and innovative capacity depend on a wide range of factors, including: the underlying business culture, regional infrastructure, education and training institutions, workforce skills, the mobility of researchers, innovation support services, technology transfer mechanisms or sources of finance.
As such, research and development (R & D) — creative work undertaken to increase the stock of knowledge to devise new applications — tends to be concentrated in clusters. Research-intensive regions are often situated around academic institutions, high-technology industrial activities and/or knowledge-based services, which attract new start-ups and highly qualified personnel, such that their competitive advantage is further intensified.
The Europe 2020 strategy is the EU’s growth strategy to become a ‘smart, sustainable and inclusive economy’; it set a target for R & D intensity, such that expenditure on R & D should be equivalent to at least 3.00 % of the EU-28’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 2020. The overall target is broken down into national targets that are based on the position of each EU Member State and commitments agreed between the European Commission and national administrations. The national targets range from 0.50 % of GDP in Cyprus to 3.76 % of GDP in Austria and 4.00 % of GDP in the traditionally R & D-intensive Member States of Finland and Sweden; there is no national target for the United Kingdom.
Almost half of the EU’s R & D expenditure took place in just 27 regions
Gross domestic expenditure on R & D (GERD) includes research expenditure made by businesses, higher education institutions, government and private non-profit organisations. It was valued at EUR 317.1 billion across the EU-28 in 2017, which equated to an average of EUR 620 of R & D expenditure per inhabitant. The EU-28’s R & D intensity stood (provisionally) at 2.06 % — considerably below the Europe 2020 target. This marked a marginal increase on a year before (2.04 % in 2016) and confirmed a slow pattern of gradual increases for this ratio, as R & D intensity had stood at 1.77 % a decade earlier in 2007.
The skewed nature of innovation activity is such that in 2016 almost half of the EU-28’s intramural R & D expenditure took place in just 27 of the 266 NUTS level 2 regions for which data are available (see Map 1 for coverage). These were the only regions where R & D expenditure was in excess of EUR 3.0 billion, with nine of them located in Germany (2015 data), four in France (2013 data), three from each of Italy and the United Kingdom, two from each of Spain, the Netherlands and Sweden, and single regions from Denmark and Austria. These absolute figures underline where clusters of scientific and technological excellence have emerged across the EU — the three regions with the highest levels of R & D expenditure were:
- the French capital city region Île de France (EUR 18.7 billion; 2013 data);
- the southern German region of Stuttgart (EUR 12.2 billion; 2015 data);
- another region from southern Germany, Oberbayern (EUR 10.5 billion; 2015 data).
The highest R & D intensity was recorded in the northern German region of Braunschweig
By contrast, Map 1 provides a relative comparison, taking account of the different sizes of regions (as measured by their GDP). Those regions where the ratio of R & D intensity was above the 3.00 % Europe 2020 target are shaded in blue: they were principally located across Germany, Austria, Belgium, the southern half of the United Kingdom and Sweden. Looking in more detail, there were only 11 NUTS level 2 regions where R & D intensity was higher than 4.0 % in 2016, the included:
- five regions located in Germany, with the highest shares in Braunschweig (10.36 %; 2015 data) and Stuttgart (6.17 %; 2015 data);
- two regions in Belgium, surrounding the capital city region, Prov. Brabant Wallon (6.43 %; 2015 data) and Prov. Vlaams-Brabant (4.26 %; 2015 data).
The two German regions with the highest ratios for R & D intensity, Braunschweig and Stuttgart, are both characterised by clusters of innovative automotive manufacturers, engineering and component suppliers; the Braunschweig region includes Wolfsburg (which is headquarters to the Volkswagen Group), while the Stuttgart region is home, among others, to the headquarters of Bosch, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche.
In a similar vein, some of the other regions with the highest ratios for R & D intensity were also characterised by clusters of research activity that were centred on specific activities, for example: pharmaceuticals in Belgium; automotive and environmental technology clusters in Steiermark (Austria); or aerospace and aeronautic clusters in Midi-Pyrénées (France).
Figure 1 shows — for each EU Member State — national Europe 2020 targets for R & D intensity (note the United Kingdom does not have a target) and the region with the highest ratio of R & D intensity. One of the most striking aspects is the highly skewed nature of research expenditure: Braunschweig, Prov. Brabant Wallon (and Stuttgart, not shown) were the only regions in the EU where R & D intensity was more than twice as high as the overall Europe 2020 target of 3.00 %. The highest ratio in Braunschweig (10.36 %; 2015 data) was more than 20 times as high as that in Latvia (0.44 %; a single region at this level of detail) where the lowest ratio was recorded.
There used to be a clear innovation divide in the EU between north and south, east and west. Changes over time have led to a more nuanced position, whereby clusters of scientific and technological excellence have emerged, concentrated around company research facilities, science parks and universities. Some regions — particularly in eastern parts of the EU — have made considerable progress in ‘catching up’. Their increased levels of investment reflect, at least in part, the internationalisation of business R & D. In 2016, there were five eastern regions of the EU where the share of R & D expenditure relative to GDP was higher than 2.00 % (but lower than 3.00 %): Zahodna Slovenija (Slovenia), Jihovýchod, Praha and Střední Čechy (all in Czechia) and Małopolskie (Poland).
The higher education sector accounted for a relatively high share of R & D expenditure in several Nordic regions, while a number of German regions had their expenditure relatively concentrated in the government sector
As noted above, gross domestic expenditure on R & D includes that made by business enterprises, higher education institutions, governments and private non-profit organisations. In 2017, almost two-thirds (66.0 %) of intramural R & D expenditure in the EU-28 was carried out by the business enterprise sector, while the second and third largest contributions were provided by the higher education sector (22.1 % of the total) and the government sector (11.2 %).
Figure 2 analyses, by sector of performance, those regions with the highest ratios of R & D intensity. It confirms the importance of the business enterprise sector in terms of its overall contribution to research performance in the EU, as its expenditure relative to GDP was above 3.00 % in 10 different regions — four of these were in Germany and three in the United Kingdom. By far the highest ratios were recorded in Braunschweig (8.06 %; 2015 data) and Stuttgart (5.71 %; 2015 data), underlining the crucial role played by the automotive sector in driving the overall research performance of the EU’s business sector.
In 2016, R & D expenditure within the higher education sector (again relative to GDP) peaked at 2.62 % in the western German region of Trier. There were also relatively high ratios in several Nordic Member States, with Denmark and Sweden (2015 data) together accounting for half of the 10 regions with the highest ratios for this sector.
The final part of Figure 2 presents a ranking of R & D intensity for the government sector; 7 out of the top 10 regions were located in Germany, underlining the importance given by successive German administrations towards financing public research. The highest R & D intensity for the government sector was recorded in Braunschweig (1.27 %; 2016 data). This was something of an anomaly — not only in Germany, but also more widely across the EU, insofar as it was generally more common to find a relatively high share of government expenditure on research being directed towards regions that were less research-intensive; examples included Dresden and Leipzig in Germany, Languedoc-Roussillon in France (2013 data) or Kriti in Greece (2015 data).
Researchers are directly employed within R & D activities: they are defined as ‘professionals engaged in the conception or creation of new knowledge, products, processes, methods and systems and in the management of the projects concerned’.
There were an estimated 2.86 million researchers active across the EU-28 in 2015. Their number — as a simple headcount — has grown at a steady pace in recent years, rising from 2.02 million in 2005; this was equivalent to an average increase of 3.5 % per annum. An alternative measure for labour input adjusts the number of researchers to take account of different working hours and working patterns. Based on this, there were 1.89 million full-time equivalent (FTE) researchers in the EU-28 in 2016, an increase of 467 000 compared with a decade earlier (or an average increase of 2.9 % per annum).
In 2016, the 1.89 million full-time equivalent workers who were employed as researchers represented 0.86 % of the EU-28 workforce. The relative importance of researchers (again using the measure of FTEs) peaked at 1.62 % of the total workforce in Denmark, and was also relatively high in the other Nordic Member States (as well in Iceland and Norway); Belgium, Austria and France (2015 data) were the only other EU Member States where the share of researchers in the total workforce stood at more than 1.00 %, although the share was just below this level in several other Member States, notably Germany and the Netherlands (both 0.99 %).
Researchers accounted for almost 1 out of every 20 persons employed in Inner London — West …
As for R & D expenditure, the distribution of researchers was highly skewed across EU regions. In 2016, it was commonplace to find researchers accounting for less than 1.00 % of the total number of persons employed across EU regions (as shown by the two lightest shades in Map 2); this criterion covered 207 of the 266 NUTS level 2 regions for which data are available.
Unsurprisingly, those regions where researchers accounted for a relatively high proportion of the total number of persons employed were often the same as those characterised by high R & D intensity, although they were joined by several capital city regions, which may be attributed to research and academic institutions often being located in capital cities.
There were 13 regions in the EU where researchers accounted for 2.00 % or more of the total number of persons employed (as shown by the darkest shade in Map 2). This was most notable in Inner London — West (one of the capital city regions in the United Kingdom), where the share of researchers in the total number of persons employed in 2016 peaked at 4.88 %, considerably higher than in any other region; the second highest share was recorded in the Belgian region of Prov. Brabant Wallon that lies just to the south of the Belgian capital (2.80 %; 2015 data). Capital city regions accounted for just over half (7) of the 13 regions where researchers represented 2.00 % or more of the regional workforce.
… the vast majority of them were employed in the higher education sector
In 2016, there were 0.95 million researchers (in FTEs) working within the EU-28’s business enterprise sector; they accounted for 0.43 % of the total number of persons employed in the EU-28. A smaller number of people were employed as researchers in the higher education sector (0.72 million, or 0.33 % of the EU-28 workforce), while the government sector employed the fewest researchers (0.20 million, or 0.09 % of the EU-28 workforce).
Figure 3 details those regions with the highest numbers of researchers (relative to the total number of persons employed in each region), with an analysis by sector of performance. In 2016, one of the most striking aspects was the dominant role played by the higher education sector in providing work to researchers in Inner London — West, some 4.01 % of total employment; several universities in London have particular strengths in science, technology, engineering and medicine. Aside from Inner London — West, the next highest shares were recorded by the Slovak capital city region Bratislavský kraj and the north-western Greek region Ipeiros, as researchers in the higher education sector accounted for 1.10 % of total employment in each of these regions.
In 2016, researchers working within the business enterprise sector accounted for 2.36 % of total employment in Prov. Brabant Wallon. The next highest share was recorded in the Stuttgart (1.93 %), followed by Hovedstaden (1.72 %); the remainder of the top 10 regions where researchers in the business enterprise sector accounted for a relatively high share of total employment were also all located in northern and western regions of the EU.
There were only two regions where the government sector employed more than 0.5 % of the total number of persons employed as researchers in 2016 and both were capital city regions of eastern Member States: Praha (0.74 %) and Bratislavský kraj (0.65 %).
Human resources in science and technology
Human resources in science and technology (HRST) are defined as persons who fulfil at least one of the following two criteria:
- have completed a tertiary level of education;
- are employed in a science and technology occupation (defined here as those who work as science and engineering professionals, health professionals, or information and communications technology professionals).
In 2018, there were 131.5 million persons employed in the EU-28 as HRST; among these, there were 53.7 million who met both the educational and occupational criteria — hereafter referred to as HRST core.
Map 3 shows the share of HRST in the economically active population (often referred to as the labour force): in 2018, across the whole of the EU-28 this figure stood at 45.6 %. Unlike other science and technology indicators, there was a broadly equal split between the number of regions with shares above and below the EU-28 average: 133 of the 281 NUTS level 2 regions for which data are available had a share of HRST in the labour force that was equal to or higher than the EU-28 average.
At the top end of the distribution, there were 16 regions where the share of HRST in the labour force was greater than or equal to 60.0 % in 2018 (as shown by the darkest shade in Map 3), they included:
- a cluster of regions in the south-east of the United Kingdom:
- Inner London — West, where HRST accounted for more than four out of every five persons (81.0 %) in the labour force, by far the highest share in the EU and Inner London — East (72.6 %), which had the second highest share;
- four more regions surrounding London: Outer London — South; Outer London — West and North West; Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire; and Surrey, East and West Sussex.
- eight capital city regions (outside those in the United Kingdom), including those of Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Lithuania (in the north); France and Germany (in the west); Poland and Czechia (in the east).
One quarter of the female labour force in the EU-28 was employed as core HRST
The final section in this chapter takes a closer look at employment patterns in science and technology, providing an analysis for differences between the sexes. Core HRST are defined as persons employed in science and technology occupations that are also in possession of a tertiary level of educational attainment. In 2018, one quarter (25.0 %) of the female labour force in the EU-28 were classified as core HRST, which was 6.0 percentage points (pp) higher than the corresponding share for men (19.0 %).
An analysis by sex and for NUTS level 1 regions reveals that core HRST accounted for 40.4 % of the female labour force in the Polish capital city region of Makroregion Województwo Mazowieckie in 2018, with the second highest share being recorded in Luxembourg (40.0 %; a single region at this level of detail); the other regions present within the top 10 were all located in northern or western regions of the EU. Overall, there were 12 regions where core HRST accounted for at least one third of the female labour force in 2018, while the corresponding count for men was just two regions, as core HRST accounted for 36.6 % of the male labour force in Luxembourg and for 35.3 % in London.
The distribution between the sexes of core HRST was generally skewed in favour of women. An analysis for NUTS level 1 regions in 2018 reveals that core HRST accounted for more than one third (34.4 %) of the female labour force in Lithuania (a single region at this level of detail), compared with a 16.5 % share within the male labour force. As such, the share of core HRST in the female labour force was more than twice as high as that recorded for men, with a gap between the sexes of 17.9 pp — the highest in the EU. The next largest differences in favour of women were recorded in the other two Baltic Member States — Estonia (where the share of core HRST in the female labour force was 16.4 pp higher than the male share) and Latvia (15.9 pp) — while the share of core HRST in the female labour force was also relatively high (compared with shares for men) in each region of Poland.
By contrast, there were only eight NUTS level 1 regions where the share of core HRST in the male labour force was higher than the corresponding share for women; all of these regions were located in Germany. The biggest gaps in favour of men were recorded in the southern regions of Baden-Württemberg (where the share of core HRST in the male labour force was 5.3 pp higher than the female share) and Bayern (5.2 pp).
Women were less likely than men to be employed as scientists and engineers
The existence of a gender gap in favour of women for HRST does not extend to all aspects of science and technology. Boys and young men continue to account for a higher share of students in scientific subjects and fields and these gender differences established at an early age persist into adult life, as men are more likely than women to have careers as ICT professionals, scientists or engineers. Policymakers have sought to redress the relatively low levels of female participation in science and engineering, by taking a number of initiatives to promote female role models and set-up programmes that seek to encourage more girls to study sciences.
In 2018, there were 18.3 million scientists and engineers in the EU-28: 10.9 million were men, which was almost three fifths (59.3 %) of the total. Scientists and engineers accounted for an 8.2 % share of the male labour force; this figure was 1.6 pp higher than the corresponding share for women (6.6 %).
There were 29 NUTS level 1 regions where scientists and engineers accounted for a double-digit share of the male labour force in 2018. The highest share was recorded in London, where scientists and engineers accounted for 14.6 % of the male labour force (see Figure 5), closely followed by Manner-Suomi (Finland; 14.4 %) and South East (the United Kingdom; 13.8 %).
By contrast, there were only seven NUTS level 1 regions in the EU where scientists and engineers accounted for a double-digit share of the female labour force in 2018:
- all three regions in Sweden — Östra Sverige had the highest share in the EU, at 12.1 %, Södra Sverige (11.1 %) and Norra Sverige (10.8 %);
- Ireland (11.0 %) and Denmark (10.7 %) — both single regions at this level of detail;
- Scotland (the United Kingdom; 11.0 %) and Région wallonne (Belgium; 10.7 %).
Source data for figures and maps
Commission Regulation (EU) No 995/2012 concerning the production and development of Community statistics on science and technology provides the legal requirements and detailed rules concerning the production of European statistics on science and technology (for example, domains, datasets, analyses, frequency or transmission delays to be respected by the EU Member States).
Other statistics that are used to analyse research and innovation are principally derived from other statistical domains within Eurostat or from a range of databases provided by other international organisations. For example, statistics on human resources in science and technology (HRST) are compiled annually based on microdata from the EU’s labour force survey (LFS).
The current methodology for R & D statistics is laid down in the Frascati manual: proposed standard practice for surveys on research and experimental development (OECD, 2002). The new edition of the Frascati manual, published in 2015, is gradually being implemented.
The methodology for statistics on HRST is laid down in the Canberra manual (OECD, 1995), which lists all HRST concepts.
For more information:
The EU’s framework programmes for research have, since their launch in 1984, played a leading role in multidisciplinary research activities. Regulation (EU) No 1291/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council established Horizon 2020 — the Framework Programme for research and innovation (2014-2020). Its goal is to ensure Europe produces world-class science, removes barriers to innovation and makes it easier for the public and private sectors to work together to deliver innovation. Horizon 2020 has a budget of almost EUR 80 billion, in addition to the private expenditure that it is expected this funding will attract. The European Commission has begun work on a proposal for the framework programme to succeed Horizon 2020, this will be agreed within the context of the next multi-annual financial framework that will cover the EU’s budget for a seven-year period from 2021.
In 2014, the European Commission adopted a Communication on Research and innovation as sources of renewed growth (COM(2014) 339 final) which proposed that EU Member States should seek to actively support growth enhancing policies, notably through research and innovation, so as to benefit from the largest internal market in the world, many of the world’s leading innovative enterprises and the EU’s highly-educated workforce.
The European research area (ERA) is a unified research area open to the world. Since 2015, it has six key priorities — outlined in the ERA Roadmap 2015-2020 — designed to have the biggest impact on Europe’s science, research and innovation systems: more effective national research systems; optimal transnational cooperation and competition; an open labour market for researchers; gender equality and gender mainstreaming in research; optimal circulation, access to and transfer of scientific knowledge; international cooperation. A set of national action plans and a group of 24 indicators have been agreed to help direct and measure progress on ERA. These are supplemented by regular progress reports, with the fourth report having been published in early 2019.
The Enhanced European Innovation Council (EIC) pilot is designed to support top-class innovators, entrepreneurs, small companies and scientists with ambition and ideas for scaling-up internationally. It brings together different areas of Horizon 2020 to provide funding, advice and opportunities for networking, mentoring and coaching to those at the cutting-edge of innovation with a budget of approximately EUR 2.7 billion to fast-track disruptive and market-creating innovations, high-risk/high-return projects and breakthrough research during the period 2018-2020.
- Regional science and technology statistics (t_reg_sct)
- Human resources in science and technology (HRST) by NUTS 2 regions (tgs00038)
- Intramural R&D expenditure (GERD) by NUTS 2 regions (tgs00042)
- Researchers, all sectors by NUTS 2 regions (tgs00043)
- Research and development (t_research)
- Human Resources in Science & Technology (t_hrst)
- Regional science and technology statistics (reg_sct)
- R&D expenditure and personnel (reg_rd)
- Human resources in Science and Technology (HRST) (reg_hrst)
- Research and development (research)
- Statistics on research and development (rd)
- R&D expenditure at national and regional level (rd_e)
- R&D personnel at national and regional level (rd_p)
- Statistics on research and development (rd)
- Human resources in Science & Technology (hrst)
- Stocks of HRST at national and regional levels (hrst_st)
- Methodological manual on territorial typologies — Eurostat — 2018 edition
- Science, technology and innovation methodology
- High-tech industry and knowledge-intensive services (ESMS metadata file — htec_esms)
- Statistics on research and development (ESMS metadata file — rd_esms)
- Human Resources in Science & Technology (ESMS metadata file — hrst_esms)
- Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 995/2012 of 26 October 2012 laying down detailed rules for the implementation of Decision No 1608/2003/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the production and development of Community statistics on science and technology
- Report (COM(2011) 184 final) from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the implementation of Decision No 1608/2003/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on science and technology statistics