Statistics Explained

Enlargement countries - statistics on research and development

Data from March 2022.

Planned article update: May 2023.


R & D staff as a percentage of total employment in 2020 was 0.71 % in Serbia, 0.66 % in Turkey and 0.22 % in North Macedonia.

Among the candidate countries and potential candidates for which data is available for 2020, R & D expenditure as a percentage of GDP was the highest in Turkey, with 1.1 %, followed by Serbia with 0.9 %, while in the EU it was 2.3 %.

The business enterprise sector accounted for 57 % of the R & D expenditure in Turkey in 2020. This sector provided between 2 % and 38 % of all funds for R & D in the other candidate countries and potential candidates, for which data is available.

Sources of research and development funds, 2020
Source: Eurostat (rd_e_gerdfund)

This article is part of an online publication. It provides information on a range of statistics related to research and development (R & D) activities in the European Union (EU) candidate countries and potential candidates, in other words the enlargement countries. Montenegro, North Macedonia, Albania, Serbia and Turkey currently have candidate country status, while Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Kosovo* are potential candidates. Research and development can be defined as creative work undertaken on a systematic basis in order to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of man, culture and society, and the use of this knowledge to devise new applications.

This article gives an overview relating to R & D in the candidate countries and potential candidates, presenting indicators such as the level of gross domestic expenditure on R & D (GERD), the ratio of R & D expenditure to gross domestic product (GDP) (also known as R & D intensity), R & D expenditure by source of funds, and the number of R & D personnel and researchers.

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Research and development expenditure

Research and Development expenditure as a percentage of GDP provides a measure of ‘R & D intensity’ that can be compared over time and between economies. Countries that have higher economic output per person will normally have a higher degree of ‘R & D intensity’ than the ones with lower economic output.

In 2020, R & D expenditure in Turkey accounted for 1.1 % of the country’s GDP, an increase from 0.8 % a decade earlier; Turkish R & D intensity was higher than that of the other candidate countries and potential candidates for which data are shown in Figure 1. The next highest level in 2020 was 0.9 % of GDP in Serbia, where the ratio had been 0.7 % in 2010. In Montenegro, R & D expenditure grew from 2011, when it accounted for 0.3 % of GDP, to 0.5 % in 2018 (latest available data). In North Macedonia, R & D expenditure has remained around 0.4 % of GDP during the period for which data are available, 2015-2020. R & D expenditure in Bosnia and Herzegovina has declined as a percentage of GDP, from 0.3 % in 2012, the earliest year for which comparable data are available, to 0.2 % in 2019.

For comparison, R & D intensity in the EU in 2020 was 2.3 % of GDP, 0.3 percentage points higher than in 2010.

Figure 1: Research and development expenditure, 2010 to 2020
(% of GDP)
Source: Eurostat (rd_e_gerdtot)

Gross domestic expenditure on R & D (otherwise referred to as GERD) includes expenditure on R & D performed by business enterprises, higher education institutions, as well as government and private non-profit organisations. R & D expenditure by source of funds describes the origin of R & D funding.

Analysing the source of funds for research and development, illustrated in Figure 2, in Turkey, the business enterprise sector was the largest source of funding for R & D, providing 57.2 % of funds in 2020. Government accounted for over 28.4 % of funds and the higher education sector 12.3 %. Funds from abroad accounted for 2.0 % of the total.

In contrast in Montenegro in 2018 (latest data available), government provided 49.0 % of funds; the business sector 37.8 %; funds from abroad 7.8 %; and higher education 5.4 % of the total. In North Macedonia, in 2019 (latest data available), the government accounted for 49.3 % of funds; business 23.6 %; higher education 21.5 % and foreign sources 5.6 %. In Serbia, the higher education sector was the main source of funding in 2020, with 44.7 % of the total. The government sector, followed closely with 43.4 % of R & D expenditure and funding from abroad with 9.6 %, the highest in the region. Business accounted for 2.1 % of the total, the lowest in the region. The funding of research and development in Bosnia and Herzegovina was derived from government with 44.5 %; business 36.1 %; higher education 9.7 %; and external funding 8.1 % of the total in 2019 (latest data available). In that country, 1.5 % was sourced from the non-profit sector, whereas in the other countries from the region for which data is available, it ranged between 0.1 and 0.2 %.

Analysis of R & D expenditure by source of funds in the EU in 2019 shows that 59.0 % of total expenditure was funded by business enterprises, while 29.4 % was funded by government, and a further 9.4 % came from foreign funds. Higher education accounted for 1.2 %, while non-profit sector accounted for the remaining 1.1 %.

Figure 2: Sources of research and development funds, 2020
Source: Eurostat (rd_e_gerdfund)

Research and development personnel and researchers

R & D personnel consist of all individuals employed directly in the field of R & D, including persons providing direct services, such as managers, administrators and clerical staff. Research and development personnel as a percentage share of all persons employed, measured on a full-time equivalent basis, is used to make comparisons over time and between countries. 2015 data is used as the base date since there is insufficient data for earlier periods. The data is illustrated in Figure 3.

Among the four candidate countries and potential candidates for which recent data are available, Serbia had the highest share of R & D personnel in total employment both in 2015 and 2020, declining somewhat over the period from 0.72 % to 0.71 %. Next highest in 2020 was Turkey with 0.66 %, an increase from 0.42 % in 2015. Montenegro reported an R & D share of employment at 0.24 % in 2019 (latest available data), a bit lower than in 2015 (0.25 %). In North Macedonia in 2020, 0.22 % of persons employed worked in research and development, a small increase from the 0.21 % recorded in 2015.

R & D personnel accounted for 1.44 % of total employment in the EU in 2020, up from 1.21 % five years earlier.

Figure 3: Research and development personnel, 2015 and 2020
(% share of all persons employed; based on full-time equivalent units)
Source: Eurostat (rd_p_perslf)

Data sources

In a number of areas, candidate countries (and sometimes also potential candidates) are in a position to provide harmonised data in accordance with the EU acquis with respect to methodology, classifications and procedures for data collection and the principles of official statistics as laid down in the European statistics Code of Practice. In these cases, the candidate countries (and potential candidates) concerned report their data to Eurostat following the same procedures and under the same quality criteria as the EU Member States and the EFTA countries. Data from the enlargement countries that meet these quality requirements are made available free-of-charge on Eurostat’s website, along with data for EU Member States and EFTA countries.

The definitions of basic concepts, data collection guidelines, and classifications for compiling research and development (R & D) statistics are available in Frascati Manual. Eurostat data on R & D aim to show a comprehensive picture of the situation in the EU, covering indicators related to expenditure and personnel. Most of the main indicators within this domain are available at a national and a regional level for the EU Member States.


R & D is the main driver of innovation, with the level of R & D expenditure and the ratio of R & D intensity being two of the key indicators used to monitor resources devoted to science and technology.

The European Research Area (ERA) aims to create a single, borderless market for research, innovation and technology across the EU. The free circulation of researchers and knowledge enables:

  • better cross-border cooperation
  • building of critical mass
  • continent-wide competition

This initiative was revitalised in 2018. Its current targets are to:

  • strengthen mobility of researchers and the flow of knowledge
  • incentivise investing in research and innovation
  • promote gender equality and diversity in science
  • enhance cooperation among universities, business and other research and innovation actors

Information concerning the current statistical legislation on R & D can be found here.

While basic principles and institutional frameworks for producing statistics are already in place, the candidate countries and potential candidates are expected to increase progressively the volume and quality of their data and to transmit these data to Eurostat in the context of the EU enlargement process. EU standards in the field of statistics require the existence of a statistical infrastructure based on principles such as professional independence, impartiality, relevance, confidentiality of individual data and easy access to official statistics; they cover methodology, classifications and standards for production.

Eurostat has the responsibility to ensure that statistical production of the enlargement countries complies with the EU acquis in the field of statistics. To do so, Eurostat supports the national statistical offices and other producers of official statistics through a range of initiatives, such as pilot surveys, training courses, traineeships, study visits, workshops and seminars, and participation in meetings within the European Statistical System (ESS). The ultimate goal is the provision of harmonised, high-quality data that conforms to European and international standards.

Additional information on statistical cooperation with the candidate countries and potential candidates is provided here.


* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence.

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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)