Enlargement countries - statistics on research and development

Data from February 2019.

Planned article update: April 2020.


Among the EU enlargement countries R & D intensity ranged from 0.24 % of GDP in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2016 to 0.96 % of GDP in Turkey in 2017, compared to 2.07 % in the EU.

R & D expenditure per inhabitant in 2017 varied among the enlargement countries from EUR 9 in Bosnia and Herzegovina to EUR 91 in Turkey, while the EU average was EUR 622.

Distribution of the sources of research and development funds, 2017
Source: Eurostat (rd_e_gerdfund)

This article is part of an online publication and provides information on a range of statistics related to research and development (R & D) activities in the European Union (EU) enlargement countries, in other words the candidate countries and potential candidates. Montenegro, North Macedonia, Albania, Serbia and Turkey currently have candidate country status, while Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo [1] are potential candidates.

This article gives an overview relating to R & D in these countries, 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) (which is 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

R & D comprises 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 stock of knowledge to develop new applications.

In 2017, gross expenditure on R & D was valued at EUR 318 billion in the EU-28, which was 17.8 % higher than five years earlier. R & D expenditure in Turkey was valued at EUR 7.2 billion, which was equivalent to 2.3 % of the level in the EU-28. Turkish R & D expenditure was far higher than in any of the other enlargement countries for which data are shown in Table 1, as the next highest level was EUR 342 million in Serbia, approximately one thousandth of the level in the EU-28. Several of the enlargement countries reported increases in R & D expenditure between 2012 and 2017, notably Turkey and Montenegro (2011-2016); by contrast, expenditure in Bosnia and Herzegovina fell between 2012 and 2016.

Table 1: Gross domestic expenditure on research & development, 2012 and 2017
Source: Eurostat (rd_e_gerdtot)

The relatively high level of R & D expenditure in Turkey compared with the other enlargement countries was not simply because of its larger size, as can be seen from the level of R & D expenditure relative to the size of the population and the size of the economy. R & D expenditure in Turkey was equivalent to EUR 91 per inhabitant in 2017, 1.9 times as high as the EUR 49 per inhabitant value in Serbia, more than four times as high as in Montenegro (2016 data), more than five times as high as in North Macedonia and nearly 10 times as high as in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The range of R & D intensities (R & D expenditure relative to GDP) among the enlargement countries was somewhat narrower, although Turkey and Serbia again recorded the highest values (0.96 % and 0.87 % respectively) and Bosnia and Herzegovina the lowest (0.24 %; 2016 data); for comparison, R & D intensity in the EU-28 was 2.07 % in 2017.

Figure 1 shows how R & D intensity developed over a 10-year period. For the early part of this period Montenegro recorded the highest R & D intensity among the enlargement countries, but this dropped by 2011 to a level below that of Turkey and Serbia and was subsequently surpassed also by North Macedonia. Most of the other enlargement countries for which a long time series are available reported a fairly steady increase in their R & D intensities over the period under consideration, as did the EU-28, although the short time series available for Bosnia and Herzegovina reflects a fall in 2014 and then relative stability.

Figure 1: Research and development intensity, 2007-2017
(% of GDP)
Source: Eurostat (rd_e_gerdtot)

An analysis of R & D expenditure by source of funds for 2016 shows that close to three fifths (57 %) of the total expenditure within the EU-28 was funded by business enterprises, while close to one third (31 %) was funded by government, and a further 10 % came from abroad (foreign funds); the other sources include private non-profit organisations (2 %) and higher education (1 %). In Turkey, the business enterprise sector was also the largest source of funding for R & D, providing nearly half the total (49 %) in 2017. By contrast, in Montenegro (2016 data), Serbia and North Macedonia the government sector was the main source of funding; in Montenegro, the government sector provided seven tenths (70 %) of all R & D finance, while in Serbia and North Macedonia its share was just less than half. Compared with the EU-28, the higher education sector provided a relatively large proportion of R & D funding in the enlargement countries, most notably in Bosnia and Herzegovina where it was the largest source with a 44 % share in 2017; this sector was also a major provider of funds in Serbia (24 %) and North Macedonia (20 %) — see Figure 2. Funds from abroad also played a much greater role in Bosnia and Herzegovina than in the EU-28, providing just under one sixth (16 %) of funding in 2017, while the relative importance of this source was even higher in Serbia (20 %).

Figure 2: Distribution of the sources of research and development funds, 2017
Source: Eurostat (rd_e_gerdfund)

Research and development personnel and researchers

The number of R & D personnel in the EU-28 increased in recent years: there were 3.05 million persons employed (in full-time equivalents) directly on R & D, as well as those providing direct services such as R & D managers, administrators and clerical staff in 2017 (see Table 2), which marked an increase of 369 thousand (or 13.8 %) when compared with 2012. Among these were 1.95 million researchers, in other words professionals engaged in the conception or creation of new knowledge, products, processes, methods and systems and also in related project management.

Table 2: Research & development personnel and researchers, 2012-2017
(thousands of full-time equivalents)
Source: Eurostat (rd_p_persocc)

Turkey reported 154 thousand R & D personnel in 2017, among which 112 thousand researchers, by far the highest numbers among the enlargement countries. Between 2012 and 2017 the number of R & D personnel in North Macedonia increased overall by 11.9 %, while Serbia (17.2 %), Turkey (46.1 %) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (128.8 %) reported larger increases. In Montenegro there was an increase of 17.8 % in the number of R & D personnel between 2013 and 2016.

Standardising these data to take account of the overall number of persons employed, R & D personnel accounted for 1.38 % of total employment in the EU-28 in 2017, up from a 1.27 % share five years earlier. Among the three enlargement countries for which recent data are available, Turkey had the highest share of R & D personnel in total employment, at 0.54 % in 2017, while Montenegro (2016 data) and North Macedonia reported shares between 0.25 % and 0.30 % — see Figure 3; the latest information available for Serbia relates to 2014 when the share was 0.90 %. The relative weight of R & D personnel in total employment was stable or increased among the three countries for which a time series is available, with Turkey registering the most notable increase.

Figure 3: Research & development personnel as a share of all persons employed, 2012 and 2017
(%; based on full-time equivalent units)
Source: Eurostat (rd_p_perslf)

Data sources

Data for the enlargement countries are collected for a wide range of indicators each year through a questionnaire that is sent by Eurostat to partner countries which have either the status of being candidate countries or potential candidates. A network of contacts in each country has been established for updating these questionnaires, generally within the national statistical offices, but potentially including representatives of other data-producing organisations (for example, central banks or government ministries). The statistics shown in this article are made available free-of-charge on Eurostat’s website, together with other socio-economic indicators collected as part of this initiative.

Eurostat data on research and development (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.

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. R & D intensity is defined as R & D expenditure relative to GDP (shown as a percentage).

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.

Tables in this article use the following notation:

Value in italics     data value is forecasted, provisional or estimated and is therefore likely to change;
: not available.


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 Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth was adopted in 2010. One of its five targets is to see an increase in the level of R & D expenditure such that it averages 3.00 % of the EU’s GDP by 2020. The EU-28 currently lags behind Japan, the United States and China in terms of expenditure on R & D as a proportion of GDP, primarily due to relatively low levels of business expenditure.

The European Research Area (ERA) is composed of all R & D activities, programmes and policies in Europe which involve a transnational perspective. 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. The goal is to create a unified area open to the world, in which scientific knowledge, technology and researchers circulate freely.

While basic principles and institutional frameworks for producing statistics are already in place, the enlargement countries 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 enlargement countries is provided here.


  1. 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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