R & D personnel



Data extracted in July 2019.

Planned article update: December 2020.


Highlights


The number of researchers in the EU increased by one-third (35 %) between 2007 and 2017, from 1.46 to 1.97 million.

More than half (51 %) of researchers in the EU worked in business enterprises, 38 % in higher education and 10 % in government sector in 2017.

Men accounted for two thirds (67 %) of researchers in the EU in 2016.

People who have a tertiary education and work in a science and technology occupation, 2012 and 2017


This article analyses data on research and development (R & D) personnel, researchers, human resources in science and technology (HRST) and doctorate/PhD students 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.


Full article


Researchers

The number of researchers in the EU-28 increased in recent years: there were 1.97 million researchers (in full-time equivalents (FTE)) employed in the EU-28 in 2017 (see Figure 1), which marked an increase of 516 thousand (or almost one third, 35.4 %) when compared with 2007. The number of researchers almost doubled between 2007 and 2017 in Poland. Relatively high growth rates were also recorded for Greece (67.4 %), the Netherlands (67.1 %), Hungary (63.5 %) and Ireland (60.9 %). By contrast, the number of researchers fell in Latvia (-16.2 %), Romania (-6.9 %) and Finland (-5.0 %).

Among the non-member countries shown in Figure 1, the number of researchers in China (excluding Hong Kong) reached 1.74 million in 2017. The United States ranked second with 1.37 million researchers (2016 data). Both of these values were below the total number of researchers in the EU-28 in 2017. During the period 2007-2017, the number of researchers in Turkey more than doubled. South Korea also recorded a rapid increase in the number of researchers (up overall by three quarters, 72.6 %). The growth was also noted in China and the United States by respectively 22.3 % and 20.6 %, however it was lower than in the EU-28, where the number of researchers rose by 35.4 %. In contrast, the number of researchers fell by 12.5 % in Russia and by 1.2 % in Japan between 2007 and 2017.

Figure 1: Number of researchers, 2007 and 2017 (thousand full-time equivalents)
Source: Eurostat (rd_p_persocc)


An analysis of R & D personnel by sector in 2017 (see Figure 2) shows that in the EU-28 there was a high concentration of researchers in the business enterprise sector (51.1 %) and the higher education sector (37.7 %), while 10.4 % 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 sector accounting for three fifths or more of all researchers in Sweden, the Netherlands, Austria, Slovenia, Hungary, Denmark and France. By contrast, the government sector employed the highest share of researchers in Romania (37.3 %). A majority of researchers working in Latvia (65.0 %), Portugal (61.3 %), Cyprus (58.6 %), the United Kingdom (58.2 %), Slovakia (57.4 %), Croatia (55.6 %), Lithuania and Estonia (both 52.5 %) and Greece (50.8 %) were employed within the higher education sector. This sector also accounted for the highest share (although less than 50 %) of all researchers in Spain and Poland. In terms of its number of researchers, the private non-profit sector was the smallest in all EU Member States; its highest share (7.4 % of all researchers) was recorded in Cyprus, while the next highest share was in Italy (3.3 %). In remaining 15 countries, for which the data for this sector are available, it ranged between 0.2 % and 1.9 %.

Figure 2: Researchers by sector, 2017
(% share of total number of researchers, based on full-time equivalents)
Source: Eurostat (rd_p_persocc)


An analysis by sex shows that men accounted for approximately two thirds (66.6 %) of the EU-28’s workforce of researchers in 2016 (expressed in head count). Women accounted for just over half of the total number of researchers in 2016 only in two countries: Lithuania (51.6 %) and Latvia (where their share peaked at 52.2 %). The share of women in the total number of researchers was close to parity in Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania (see Figure 3). The gender gap was the largest in the Netherlands, France (2014 data) and Czechia, where close to three quarters of all researchers were men.

Figure 3: Researchers by sex, 2016
(% share of total number of researchers, based on head count)
Source: Eurostat (rd_p_persocc)


R & D personnel

R & D personnel from all sectors together accounted for a share of more than 2.2 % of the total labour force in Denmark in 2017, compared with an EU-28 average of 1.3 % (Note: these figures are based on information in full-time equivalents). Aside from Denmark, the share of R & D personnel in the total labour force ranged from 0.4 % in Cyprus and in Romania up to 1.7 % in Belgium and Sweden, 1.8 % in Austria and 1.9 % in Finland and Luxembourg (see Figure 4).

Figure 4: R & D personnel by sector, 2017
(% share of total labour force, based on full-time equivalents)
Source: Eurostat (rd_p_perslf)


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. 80 million people in the EU-28 were employed in science and technology (S and T) occupations in 2017; this made up almost one third (32.7 %) of the total labour force aged 15-74 (see Figure 5). Persons in S and T occupations accounted for over half (50.5 %) of the total labour force in Luxembourg in 2017 and for around two fifths in Sweden (43.2 %), Denmark (41.4 %), Finland (40.1%), the Netherlands (39.4 %) and Germany (38.6 %). By contrast, the lowest shares (of less than one quarter) of people working in science and technology occupations were recorded in Romania (20.3 %), Greece (21.5 %), Bulgaria (24.0 %) and Spain (24.1 %).

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 limited 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 who are employed in science and technology occupations — amounted to 542 million persons in 2017 across the whole EU-28 and accounted for one fifth (21.2 %) of the total labour force. Concerning the HRST ‘core’ Romania, Slovakia and Italy were the only EU Member States to report less than 15.0 % of their labour force in that category in 2017, while at the other end of the scale ‘HRSTC’ accounted for more than one quarter of the labour force in Luxembourg (30.3 %), Finland (29.9 %), Belgium (29.2 %), Sweden (28.7 %), Denmark (26.5 %) and Ireland (26.4 %) (see Figure 5).

Figure 5: Human resources in science and technology, 2017
(% share of total labour force aged 15-74)
Source: Eurostat (hrst_st_ncat)


Between 2012 and 2017 there was a considerable increase in the relative importance of people classified as HRST ‘core’ within the EU-28’s labour force, as their share rose by 2.4 percentage points (see Figure 6) from 18.8 % to 21.2 % in 2017. In fact, this share increased in all EU Member States except for Germany (where it fell by 0.1 points) and in Luxembourg (where it fell by 5.6 points). It must be noted that the break in series occurred in Luxembourg between the two observed periods. The largest increases in the relative importance of the HRST core workforce were recorded in Austria (up 7.4 points), Portugal and Croatia (up 4.6 points), Sweden (up 4.5 points), Belgium (up 4.2 points) and Poland (up 4.0 points).

Figure 6: People who have a tertiary education and work in a science and technology occupation, 2012 and 2017
(% share of total labour force aged 15-74)
Source: Eurostat (hrst_st_ncat)


Science and technology graduates

Moving away from the broad definitions of HRST, Figures 7 and 8 look at science and technology fields of education: these include natural science, mathematics and statistics; information and communication technologies; engineering, manufacturing and construction. Within the EU-28, (2016 data) there were 19.3 graduates from science and technology fields of education per 1 000 persons aged 20 to 29 years. Among the EU Member States (2017 data), relatively high ratios — above 20.0 graduates per 1 000 persons aged 20 to 29 years — were recorded in Ireland, France, Poland, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Finland, Austria, Spain, Portugal and Germany. In Ireland this ratio peaked at 37.2 graduates per 1 000 persons aged 20 to 29 years. 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 (3.8 graduates from science and technology fields of education per 1 000 persons aged 20 to 29) and also the relatively low ratio recorded for Cyprus (10.1).

Figure 7: Science and technology graduates, 2013 and 2017
(tertiary graduates in science and technology per 1 000 persons aged 20-29 years)
Source: Eurostat (educ_uoe_grad04)


An analysis of science and technology graduates by sex shows that men (aged 20-29) are more likely to graduate in these fields than women: in 2017, the EU-28 registered 24.9 male tertiary graduates in science and technology per 1 000 men aged 20-29 and 13.4 female tertiary graduates per 1 000 women of the same age, a difference of 11.5 per 1 000. A gender gap was observed in all EU Member States in 2017, ranging from 3.8 per 1 000 in Luxembourg to 19.1 in Finland, 19.7 in Austria and 26.6 per 1 000 in Ireland.

Figure 8: Science and technology graduates by sex, 2017
(tertiary graduates in science and technology per 1 000 persons aged 20-29 years)
Source: Eurostat (educ_uoe_grad04)


Doctoral students

A similar but more specific measure of a country’s potential research capability is provided by the number of doctoral (PhD) students (see Figure 9). In 2017, there were an estimated 760 thousand doctoral students in the EU-28. Women accounted for slightly less than half (an estimated 47.9 %) of doctoral students in the EU-28 in 2017.

The gender split of doctoral students across the EU Member States was typically quite balanced: women accounted for more than half of all the doctoral students in 13 out of the 28 Member States in 2017, their share peaking at 60.5 % in Latvia, 59.0 % in Cyprus and at 58.1 % in Lithuania. Among the 15 Member States where there were a higher number of male (than female) PhD students, the share of men peaked at 57.7 % in Luxembourg and Germany and at 55.6 % in Czechia.

Figure 9: Number of PhD students by sex, 2017
(thousands)
Source: Eurostat (educ_uoe_enrt01)


In relative terms, the broad group covering science and technology accounted for 41.9 % of the doctoral students in the EU-28 in 2017.

Among the EU Member States, science and technology fields of education accounted for more than half of all doctoral students only in Luxembourg. These fields were also very popular among students in the United Kingdom, Czechia, Estonia, France, Germany and Italy where the shares ranged between 46.1 % and 47.6 %.The lowest proportion of PhD students in S&T fields of education counted Malta (27.5 %) and Cyprus and Hungary (both 30.9 %). The other fields of education for doctoral studies in the EU-28 in terms of popularity were social science, business and law (20.3 %) education, arts and humanities (19.3 %), health, welfare and services (15.2 %) and agriculture and veterinary (2.5 %).

Figure 10: PhD students by field of education, 2017
(% share of total PhD students)
Source: Eurostat (educ_uoe_enrt03)


Data sources

R & D personnel

Statistics on R & D personnel are compiled using guidelines laid out in the 6th edition of the Frascati manual, published in 2002 by the OECD; the manual was updated with improved guidelines reflecting changes in the way that R & D is funded and carried out — see the Frascati manual 2015.

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.

Human resources in science and technology (HRST)

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 (ILO) 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; these stock data relate to the employment status as well as the occupational and educational profiles of individuals.

HRST based on education (HRSTE) are persons having successfully completed tertiary education, defined as levels 5, 6, 7 or 8 of the 2011 version of the international standard classification of education (ISCED). Previously it was defined as levels 5 (a or b) or 6 of the 1997 version of ISCED.

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, technology and innovation

Statistics on science, technology and innovation are based on Decision No 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 (EC) No 753/2004 on statistics on science and technology, adopted in 2004. In 2012, a new European Commission Regulation (EU) No 995/2012 concerning the production and development of Community statistics on science and technology was adopted.

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.

Doctoral students

Indicators based on the number of doctoral (PhD) 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 2011 level 8: this level concerns tertiary programmes which lead to the award of an advanced research qualification. Programmes at this ISCED level are devoted to advanced study and original research and are typically offered only by research-oriented tertiary educational institutions such as universities. Doctoral programmes exist in both academic and professional fields.

Source data for tables and graphs


Context

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.

With this in mind, the EU and its Member States set-up a pan-European initiative — EURAXESS: researchers in motion — which is designed to deliver information and support researcher mobility and career development, while enhancing scientific collaboration between Europe and the world. The same gateway is also used to promote the European Commission’s initiative titled Science4Refugees, which is designed to help refugee researchers find jobs and to support refugee scientists in finding European researchers with whom they may discuss problems, find solutions and study together.

In December 2008, the Competitiveness Council adopted a definition for a 2020 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. This vision is part of the wider goals contained within the Europe 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 billion 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.

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Research and development (t_research)
Statistics on research and development (t_rd)
Total researchers by sectors of performance - head count (tsc00003)
Total researchers by sectors of performance - full time equivalent (tsc00004)
Research and development personnel, by sectors of performance (tsc00002)
Share of women researchers, all sectors (tsc00006)
Share of women researchers, by sectors of performance (tsc00005)
Human resources in Science & Technology (t_hrst)
Human resources in science and technology (HRST) (tsc00025)
Doctorate students in science and technology fields (tsc00028)
Education and training outcomes (t_educ_outc)
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)
Participation in education and training (educ_part)
Pupils and students - enrolments (educ_uoe_enr)
Tertiary education (educ_uoe_enrt)
Education and training outcomes (educ_outc)
Graduates (educ_uoe_grad)