Enlargement countries - statistics on research and development

Data from February 2020.

Planned article update: April 2021.


Among the EU candidate countries and potential candidates (no data available for Albania or Kosovo), R & D intensity ranged in 2018 from 0.20 % in Bosnia and Herzegovina to 1.25 % in Turkey, compared with 2.19 % in the EU-27.

R & D expenditure per inhabitant in 2018 varied among the candidate countries and potential candidates (no data available for Albania or Kosovo) from EUR 10 in Bosnia and Herzegovina to EUR 101 in Turkey, while the EU-27 average was EUR 662.

The business enterprise sector accounted for more than half of the EU-27’s R & D expenditure in 2018. This pattern was also observed in Turkey, while the business enterprise sector provided less than one third of all funds for R & D in the remaining candidate countries and potential candidates.

Distribution of the sources of research and development funds, 2018
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* are potential candidates.

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

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 2018, gross expenditure on R & D was valued at EUR 295 billion in the EU-27, which was 23.0 % higher than five years earlier. R & D expenditure in Turkey was valued at EUR 8.2 billion, which was equivalent to 2.8 % of the level in the EU-27. Turkish R & D expenditure was far higher than in any of the other candidate countries and potential candidates for which data are shown in Table 1, as the next highest level was EUR 394 million in Serbia, 1.3 thousandths of the level in the EU-27. Several of the candidate countries and potential candidates reported increases in R & D expenditure between 2013 and 2018, notably Serbia and Turkey; by contrast, expenditure in Bosnia and Herzegovina fell between 2013 and 2018.

Table 1: Gross domestic expenditure on research & development, 2013 and 2018
Source: Eurostat (rd_e_gerdtot)

The relatively high level of R & D expenditure in Turkey compared with the other candidate countries and potential candidates 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 101 per inhabitant in 2018, around 80 % higher than the EUR 56 per inhabitant value in Serbia, more than four times as high as in Montenegro (2017 data), more than five times as high as in North Macedonia and more than 11 times as high as in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The range of R & D intensities (R & D expenditure relative to GDP) among the candidate countries and potential candidates was somewhat narrower, although Turkey and Serbia again recorded the highest values in 2018 (1.25 % and 0.92 % respectively) and Bosnia and Herzegovina the lowest (0.20 %); for comparison, R & D intensity in the EU-27 was 2.19 %.

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 candidate countries and potential candidates, 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 candidate countries and potential candidates for which a long time series are available reported a relatively steady development for their R & D intensities over the period under consideration, as did the EU-27. Higher R & D intensities in 2018 than in 2008 were observed for the EU-27, Turkey, Serbia and North Macedonia (despite a falling trend after a peak in 2014), while the short time series available for Bosnia and Herzegovina reflects a fall after a peak in 2013.

Figure 1: Research and development intensity, 2008-2018
(% of GDP)
Source: Eurostat (rd_e_gerdtot)

An analysis of R & D expenditure by source of funds for 2017 shows that close to three fifths (59 %) of the total expenditure within the EU-27 was funded by business enterprises, while three tenths (30 %) was funded by government, and a further tenth (9 %) came from abroad (foreign funds); the other sources include private non-profit organisations and higher education (1 % each). In Turkey, the business enterprise sector was also the largest source of funding for R & D, providing more than half the total (54 %) in 2018. By contrast, in Montenegro (2017 data), North Macedonia and Serbia the government sector was the main source of funding; in Montenegro, the government sector provided nearly two thirds (64 %) of all R & D finance, while in Serbia and North Macedonia its share was over two fifths. Compared with the EU-27, the higher education sector provided a relatively large proportion of R & D funding in the candidate countries and potential candidates, most notably in Bosnia and Herzegovina where it was the largest source with a 44 % share in 2018; this sector was also a major provider of funds in Serbia (25 %) and North Macedonia (20 %) — see Figure 2. Funds from abroad also played a much greater role in Bosnia and Herzegovina than in the EU-27, providing one fifth (20 %) of funding in 2018, while the relative importance of this source was even higher in Serbia (22 %).

Figure 2: Distribution of the sources of research and development funds, 2018
Source: Eurostat (rd_e_gerdfund)

Research and development personnel and researchers

The number of R & D personnel in the EU-27 increased in recent years: there were 2.80 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 2018 (see Table 2), which marked an increase of 452 thousand (or 19.3 %) when compared with 2013. Among these were 1.77 million researchers, in other words professionals engaged in the conception or creation of new knowledge, products, processes, methods and systems as well as in related project management.

Table 2: Research & development personnel and researchers, 2013-2018
(thousands of full-time equivalents)
Source: Eurostat (rd_p_persocc)

Turkey reported 172 thousand R & D personnel in 2018, among which 126 thousand researchers, by far the highest numbers among the candidate countries and potential candidates. Between 2013 and 2018 the number of R & D personnel in Serbia increased overall by 15.0 %, while Montenegro (15.3 %; 2013-2017) also reported a smaller increase than that observed in the EU-27 (19.3 %). Larger increases were reported elsewhere (no data for Albania or Kosovo): North Macedonia up 27.6 %, Turkey up 52.4 % and Bosnia and Herzegovina up 58.5 %.

Standardising these data to take account of the overall number of persons employed, R & D personnel accounted for 1.45 % of total employment in the EU-27 in 2018, up from a 1.29 % share five years earlier. 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, at 0.78 % in 2018, ahead of Turkey’s 0.56 % share in 2017. Montenegro and North Macedonia reported shares of 0.30 % and 0.27 % respectively in 2018 — see Figure 3. The relative weight of R & D personnel in total employment increased among three of the four countries for which a time series is available, with Turkey registering the most notable increase; Serbia was the exception with a slight fall between 2014 and 2018.

Figure 3: Research & development personnel as a share of all persons employed, 2013 and 2018
(%; 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 candidate countries or potential candidates. A network of contacts 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 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.


* 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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