Research and innovation statistics at regional level
Data extracted in March 2020.
Planned article update: September 2021.
There were only three regions in the EU where research and development intensity was higher than 5.00 % in 2017: Braunschweig (8.52 %) and Stuttgart (7.69 %) in Germany and Prov. Brabant Wallon (6.33 %; 2015 data) in Belgium.
In 2017, Hovedstaden (the Danish capital region) had the highest share of researchers in its total number of persons employed (2.96 %); the next highest shares were recorded in Prov. Brabant Wallon (2.80 %; Belgium) and Warszawski stołeczny (2.62 %; the Polish capital region).
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, by helping to solve some of the world’s largest societal and generational challenges. For example, the European Commission’s political guidelines for the period 2019-2024 include a target to become the world’s first climate-neutral continent. These guidelines are backed-up by a commitment to invest in innovation and research through the European Green Deal Investment Plan, to help facilitate a transition towards a climate-neutral, competitive and inclusive European economy.
The EU is one of the world’s leading producer of scientific knowledge: it welcomes researchers from all over the globe. However, it is often claimed that Europe faces an innovation deficit. Most commentators agree that this is not due to an absence of new ideas or discoveries, but instead reflects a lack of success in diffusing/commercialising inventions. Part of this deficit may be linked to EU businesses and financial systems being risk-averse, which may impinge upon their ability to identify disruptive research and breakthrough innovations.
This article 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 expenditure
Research and experimental development (R & D) — creative and systematic work undertaken to increase the stock of knowledge or to devise new applications of existing knowledge — 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.
Gross domestic expenditure on R & D (GERD) includes research expenditure made by business enterprises , higher education institutions, government and private non-profit organisations. In 2017, GERD was valued at EUR 280.3 billion across the EU-27. The skewed nature of innovation activity was such that more than half of the EU’s intramural R & D expenditure took place in 22 out of 208 NUTS level 2 regions (no regional data available for Ireland and France). These were the only regions in the EU where R & D expenditure was in excess of EUR 3.0 billion, underlining the significance of clusters of scientific and technological excellence. The three regions with the highest levels of R & D expenditure were all located in Germany: Stuttgart (EUR 15.9 billion), Oberbayern (EUR 10.7 billion) and Darmstadt (EUR 6.6 billion).
The highest R & D intensity was recorded in Braunschweig
R & D intensity is frequently used as a measure to determine an economy’s creative/innovative capacity. It is calculated as the ratio of R & D expenditure relative to gross domestic product (GDP). Despite modest annual increases over most of the last decade, R & D intensity remained below its Europe 2020 benchmark target of 3.00 %: the EU-27 ratio stood at 2.15 % in 2017.
Figure 1 identifies those regions with the highest ratios for R & D intensity in each of the EU Member States. Overall, there were 23 NUTS level 2 regions that recorded ratios of at least 3.00 % in 2017 (2015 data for Belgium; no regional data available for Ireland and France). They were predominantly located in Germany, Austria, Sweden and Belgium, although this group also included single regions from each of Denmark, the Netherlands and Finland. The highest ratios for R & D intensity were recorded in Germany: Braunschweig (8.52 %) and Stuttgart (7.69 %). Both of these regions are 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.
The largest increase in R & D intensity between 2007 and 2017 was recorded in Stuttgart
Between 2007 and 2017, R & D intensity in the EU-27 rose by 0.35 percentage points to 2.15 %. More than three quarters (156 out of 203) of EU regions recorded an increase in R & D intensity over this period, with no change reported in four regions. The largest increases in R & D intensity were recorded in Stuttgart and Braunschweig — the two regions with the highest levels of R & D intensity. In Stuttgart, R & D intensity increased by 2.34 points between 2007 and 2017, while the gain in Braunschweig was somewhat lower (2.10 points). Both values were considerable higher than the next highest increases, as R & D intensity rose by 1.26-1.38 points in five regions: Steiermark, Oberösterreich (both Austria), Karlsruhe, Rheinhessen-Pfalz (both Germany) and Västsverige (Sweden).
At the other end of the range, there were 43 regions across the EU where R & D intensity decreased between 2007 and 2017. These declines were usually relatively modest, with only 10 regions recording a decrease of at least 0.3 percentage points (see the second half of Figure 2). All 10 of these regions were located in northern or western EU Member States. The largest decrease was in Sydsverige (Sweden), as its R & D intensity fell by 1.28 percentage points. The only other EU region to record a decrease of more than 1.00 points was Länsi-Suomi (Finland; 1.03 points). Three of the four remaining regions in Finland — Etelä-Suomi, Pohjois- ja Itä-Suomi and Helsinki-Uusimaa — also recorded relatively large decreases in their R & D intensity during this period.
Sectors of performance
As noted above, gross domestic expenditure on R & D (GERD) includes spending that is made by business enterprises, higher education institutions, governments and private non-profit organisations. In 2017, almost two thirds (66.0 %) of gross domestic expenditure on R & D in the EU-27 was carried out by the business enterprise sector. The second and third largest contributions to R & D expenditure were provided by the higher education (21.9 %) and government sectors (11.6 %).
Map 1 confirms that the business enterprise sector usually accounted for the highest spend on R & D. These regions are split into two groups within the map: those where the business enterprise sector had a relatively high degree of research intensity (expenditure of at least 1.5 % relative to GDP) are shown in dark orange, whereas those regions with a lower level of research intensity are shown in a lighter orange shade.
Of the 191 NUTS level 2 regions for which data are available (Belgium, NUTS level 1; Ireland, France and the Netherlands, national data), almost four fifths (79 %) recorded their highest level of expenditure made by the business enterprise sector. The map highlights 34 regions across the EU where business enterprise expenditure on R & D was at least 1.5 % of GDP (the darker orange shade); these regions were predominantly located in Germany, Austria, Sweden and Finland. The prominence of the business enterprise sector was most apparent in Stuttgart, where its R & D expenditure was valued at 7.21 % of GDP. Business enterprises in Stuttgart accounted for 93.8 % of total R & D expenditure — also the highest share among NUTS level 2 regions.
Higher education spending on research and development was relatively high in Nordic regions
In 2017, there were 31 regions across the EU where the higher education sector accounted for the largest share of R & D expenditure; many of these were peripheral regions. Övre Norrland, the northernmost region of Sweden, was one of these 31 regions and also had the highest ratio of expenditure by the higher education sector (relative to GDP), at 1.56 %. It was followed (among all regions) by Hovedstaden and Wien — the Danish and Austrian capital regions — where R & D expenditure by the higher education sector was equivalent to 1.33 % of GDP. There were only five other regions across the EU where higher education spending on R & D was in excess of 1.00 % of GDP: Östra Mellansverige, Sydsverige (both Sweden), Gießen (Germany), Steiermark (Austria) and Nordjylland (Denmark). As such, several Nordic regions reported a relatively high proportion of their R & D expenditure made within the higher education sector.
Government spending on research and development was relatively high in Germany
In 2017, there were 10 regions across the EU where the government sector had the highest level of expenditure on R & D. These regions were located in Germany, Greece, Italy and Romania. They were characterised by relatively low levels of research intensity, with their expenditure being financed principally by public research.
Among all regions, the highest ratio of government expenditure on R & D was recorded in Braunschweig (1.24 % of GDP in 2017) — which had the highest ratio of research intensity in the EU. It is interesting to note that government spending on R & D in Germany took place not only in regions with low levels of research intensity, but also in regions with an established and thriving research base. Apart from Braunschweig, there were only three other regions in the EU where government expenditure on R & D accounted for more than 1.00 % of GDP. They were also located in Germany: Berlin (1.20 %), Dresden (1.17 %) and Bremen (1.12 %). These figures underline the importance given by successive German administrations to financing public research. For example, the German federal government has set itself a target whereby research expenditure from the government sector should attain at least 1.15 % of GDP by 2025.
Researchers are persons engaged in R & D activities: they are defined as ‘professionals engaged in the conception or creation of new knowledge. They conduct research and improve or develop concepts, theories, models, techniques instrumentation, software operational methods.’
Researchers made up almost 3 % of the workforce in the Danish capital region
In 2017, there were 2.58 million researchers employed in the EU-27. Adjusting this total to take account of different working hours and working patterns, the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) researchers was 1.70 million, equivalent to 0.89 % of the EU-27 workforce.
The distribution of researchers across EU regions was highly skewed. It was commonplace to find researchers accounting for less than 1.00 % of the total number of persons employed (as shown by the three lightest shades in Map 2). This criterion covered almost three quarters (157 out of 212) of the NUTS level 2 regions for which data are available in 2017. At the top end of the distribution, the relative importance of researchers (in FTEs) peaked at 2.96 % of the total workforce in Hovedstaden (the Danish capital region). There were only three other regions in the EU where researchers accounted for more than 2.50 % of the workforce: Prov. Brabant Wallon (Belgium), Warszawski stołeczny (the Polish capital region) and Stuttgart (Germany). As such, those regions with the highest shares of researchers were either characterised by high levels of R & D intensity and/or by being capital regions. Map 2 confirms this pattern, insofar as 10 out of the 18 EU regions where researchers accounted for at least 1.50 % of the total workforce — as shown by the darkest shade — were capital regions. They comprised the capital regions of: Denmark, Poland, Czechia, Slovakia, Finland, Hungary, Sweden, Belgium, Austria and Slovenia. The relatively high proportion of researchers in capital regions may reflect, at least in part, a tendency for public research and academic institutions to be concentrated in capital cities.
The number of researchers in the EU-27 rose, on average, by 3.5 % each year between 2007 and 2017
Having stood at 1.21 million in 2007, the number of researchers (in FTEs) in the EU-27 rose continuously, up by almost half a million, to a relative peak of 1.70 million in 2017. As such, the number of researchers in the EU-27 grew, on average, by 3.5 % each year during this period.
Figure 3 details those regions with the largest percentage increases/decreases in numbers of researchers between 2007 and 2017. Note that very high rates of change may be recorded by regions that have relatively small numbers of researchers. For example, despite an average growth rate of 43 % each year (between 2011 and 2017), the overall number of researchers in Ionia Nisia (Greece) increased by just 528. It was common to find that some of the largest growth rates were recorded in regions characterised by relatively low levels of research intensity. Among the 10 regions with the highest growth rates (as shown in Figure 3), there were only four where the absolute number of researchers increased by more than 1 000. They were: Małopolskie in Poland (an increase of 10 200 between 2007 and 2017), Syddanmark in Denmark (3 500), Prov. Hainaut in Belgium (1 400) and Dytiki Ellada in Greece (1 200). A similar pattern was observed when analysing relative decreases in researchers, as the impact of declining numbers was generally quite small in absolute terms. Indeed, Sud-Muntenia in Romania was the only region (among the 10 shown with negative rates of change) to report a decrease in numbers of researchers of more than 1 000.
There were other regions (outside of those shown in Figure 3) where the number of researchers increased by a greater margin in absolute terms. The count of researchers (in FTEs) increased by more than 10 000 between 2007 and 2017 in three regions: Stuttgart in Germany (up 22 400), Lombardia in Italy (10 300) and Małopolskie in Poland (10 200). The largest overall decline in numbers of researchers was recorded in Sud-Muntenia (already mentioned above).
Human resources in science and technology
Human resources in science and technology (HRST) are defined as persons who fulfil one or other of the following two criteria:
- have successfully completed a tertiary education;
- are not formally qualified as above, but are employed in a science and technology occupation where the above qualifications are normally required (defined here as those who work as professionals, technicians and associate professionals — as defined by the international standard classification of occupations (ISCO) major groups 2 and 3).
As such, the concept of HRST relates mainly to the education of persons irrespective of their actual professional occupation. By contrast, the concept of R & D personnel relates specifically to the actual occupation of persons, namely, if they are directly engaged in R & D (creative and systematic work undertaken to increase the stock of knowledge or to devise new applications of existing knowledge). Therefore, the criteria for HRST are less strict, with numbers of HRST considerably higher than levels of R & D personnel.
In 2018, there were 110.5 million persons employed in the EU-27 as HRST; among these were 45.2 million who met both the educational and occupational criteria (otherwise referred to as HRST core). Map 3 shows the share of HRST in the economically active population (hereafter referred to as the labour force). In 2018, the share of HRST in the EU-27 labour force was 44.2 %. Unlike other science and technology indicators, the regional distribution for this indicator was not highly skewed. Rather, there was an almost equal split in the number of regions with shares above (118 regions) and below (122 regions) the EU-27 average. In keeping with other science and technology indicators, some of the highest shares of HRST in the labour force were recorded in capital regions. Indeed, capital regions accounted for 8 out of the 10 regions in the EU where the share of HRST was greater than or equal to 60.0 % (as shown by the darkest shade in Map 3). They included the capital regions of Poland, the Nordic Member States, France, Czechia, Germany and Lithuania; the other two regions were Prov. Brabant Wallon (Belgium) and Utrecht (the Netherlands). In 2018, the highest share of HRST was recorded in Warszawski stołeczny (the Polish capital region), where HRST accounted for around 7 out of 10 persons (70.7 %) in the labour force.
At the other end of the range, there were 27 regions across the EU where the share of HRST in the labour force was less than 30.0 %. Generally they were characterised as rural and peripheral regions that were concentrated in eastern and southern parts of the EU. Nord-Est (Romania) had the lowest regional share, with HRST accounting for around one sixth (16.9 %) of its labour force.
Between 2008 and 2018, human resources in science and technology increased by almost one quarter across the EU-27
From 88.9 million in 2008, the number of HRST across the EU-27 rose to 110.5 million in 2018. This was equivalent to an overall gain of 24.2 %, or an average increase of 2.2 % each year during the period under consideration.
Figure 4 details those regions with the largest percentage increases/decreases in numbers of HRST between 2008 and 2018. Of the 240 NUTS level 2 regions for which data are available, the vast majority (232 regions) reported an increase in their number of HRST. The five largest percentage increases were recorded in peripheral regions of the EU, with the number of HRST more than doubling in Guyane, Martinique (both France), Região Autónoma dos Açores (Portugal) and Malta, while it almost doubled in La Réunion (also France). There was also a relatively large increase in the number of HRST in Luxembourg and three more Portuguese regions (Norte, Centro and Região Autónoma da Madeira). Note that very high percentage rates of change may be recorded by regions that have relatively few HRST. Among the 10 regions shown in Figure 4 with the highest relative increases, the biggest gains in absolute terms were recorded in Norte (292 000 more HRST between 2008 and 2018) and Centro (170 000).
Four out of the eight regions which reported falling numbers of HRST between 2008 and 2018 were in eastern Germany. They included Chemnitz, where the number of HRST fell by 9.2 % — the largest percentage reduction in the EU. Note that some of these regions experienced a decline in their labour forces and/or populations during the period under consideration, often at a faster pace than the decline in numbers of HRST. For example, although the overall number of HRST in Chemnitz decreased between 2008 and 2018, the share of HRST in the regional labour force rose from 39.0 % to 42.6 %.
Outside of the regions with the highest increases in relative terms (shown in Figure 4), there were other regions where the overall count of HRST increased between 2008 and 2018 by a considerably larger margin in absolute terms. Many of these could be characterised as vibrant hubs of business activity. For example, the highest increase was recorded in Île-de-France — the capital region of France — with almost 750 000 additional HRST. It was followed by Rhône-Alpes (France; 576 000) and Cataluña (Spain; almost 500 000), while the number of HRST also increased by more than 300 000 in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (France), Oberbayern (Germany), Andalucía (Spain), Śląskie (Poland) and Lombardia (Italy).
Fewer women (than men) were employed as scientists and engineers
In 2018, there were 14.7 million scientists and engineers working in the EU-27. Of these, 6.3 million (or 41.1 % of the total) were women. Policymakers have taken steps to redress this gender imbalance: for example, by promoting female role models or setting-up programmes to encourage more girls to study sciences. Among other effects, this has led to an increase in female participation within sciences at a tertiary level, although male PhD students continue to outnumber female ones. There has also been an effect in the labour force, as between 2002 and 2018 the number of female scientists and engineers in the EU-27 increased, on average, by 10.7 % per year; this was almost double the rate recorded for men (5.6 % per year).
Scientists and engineers accounted for 6.9 % of the EU-27 labour force in 2018, with a 1.5 percentage points higher share recorded for men (7.6 %) than for women (6.1 %). Map 4 presents this gender gap in more detail — for NUTS level 1 regions. It reveals that the gap between the sexes was not universal. Rather, in 29 out of the 89 regions for which data are available, the share of scientists and engineers in the labour force was higher for women than men (these regions are shaded in orange). While this situation occurred in at least one region of Belgium, Germany, France and Austria, these regions were principally located in peripheral regions away from the centre of the EU, for example, Ireland, the Iberian Peninsula and a band of regions running from the Nordic and Baltic Member States through easternmost regions of the EU into parts of Greece.
In 2018, the largest gender gap in favour of women was recorded in Norra Sverige (Sweden), where scientists and engineers accounted for 11.1 % of the female labour force compared with a 7.8 % share for men; a gap of 3.3 percentage points. Norra Sverige was one of just six regions across the EU where scientists and engineers accounted for a double-digit share of the female labour force. This group also included the other two regions in Sweden, as well as Ireland, Denmark and Région wallonne (Belgium).
It was however more common for scientists and engineers to account for a higher share of the male (rather than female) labour force. This pattern was reproduced across 60 different regions of the EU (those shaded in blue in Map 4). The largest gender gap in favour of men was recorded in Manner-Suomi (Finland), where scientists and engineers represented 14.4 % of the male labour force, some 8.1 percentage points higher than the corresponding share for women (6.3 %). The next highest gender gaps (in favour of men) were registered in Közép-Magyarország (the Hungarian capital region; 6.7 points), Luxembourg (5.6 points), Baden-Württemberg and Bayern (both Germany; both 5.5 points).
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, datasets, analyses, frequency or transmission timetable to be respected by the EU Member States).
Some other statistics that are used to analyse research and innovation are derived compiled using data 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 methodology for R & D statistics is laid down in an updated version of the Frascati manual (OECD, 2015). It provides guidelines for collecting and reporting data on research and experimental development, with definitions of basic concepts and classifications for compiling R & D statistics.
The methodology for statistics on HRST is laid down in the Canberra manual (OECD, 1995), which lists all HRST concepts and provides definitions of human resources devoted to science and technology in terms of qualification (levels and fields of study) and occupation.
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 the EU 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; it is called Horizon Europe. The final budget for the programme will be agreed within the context of the next multi-annual financial framework covering the EU’s budget for the period 2021 to 2027. The European Commission has started preparations for the implementation of Horizon Europe, based on three pillars: excellent science supporting frontier research projects; global challenges and European industrial competitiveness that reinforces technological and industrial capacities and sets EU-wide missions with ambitious goals tackling some of society’s biggest issues (health, climate change, clean energy, mobility, security, digital, materials); innovative Europe designed to make Europe a frontrunner in innovation and SME growth through the creation of a European Innovation Council (a one-stop shop to help innovators create future markets, supporting innovations that have a breakthrough or disruptive nature).
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, in order 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. This was followed in 2015 by three new policy goals for EU research and development — open innovation, open science and open to the world (designed to open up the innovation process; to spread scientific knowledge as soon as it is available; promote international cooperation in the research community). These ideas were developed further in 2016 and published in Open innovation, open science, open to the world — A Vision for Europe.
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. In 2019, the European Commission reported that progress towards a well-functioning ERA continues, while large disparities between countries persist. It suggested a period of reflection on how to accelerate, strengthen and further encourage implementation of ERA priorities.
- 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)
Manuals and further methodological information
- Methodological manual on territorial typologies — Eurostat — 2018 edition
- Science, technology and innovation methodology
- 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