Research and innovation statistics at regional level
Data extracted in March/April 2018.
Planned article update: September 2019.
Braunschweig in Germany had the highest level of R & D intensity in the EU, at 9.5 %.
Researchers accounted for just over 1 in 20 persons who were employed in Inner London - West.
In modern societies, the benefits of research and innovation increasingly form a vital part of our everyday lives. They contribute to resolve environmental threats, make food safer, lead to the development of new medicines to prevent and fight illness and disease, and foster communication and entertainment. Indeed, science and technology can tackle successfully some of the major challenges facing society today, and by so doing, can act as a driving force for economic growth and job creation.
The European Union (EU) has a leading position in the production of scientific knowledge. However, many commentators claim that the EU too rarely succeeds in turning its research discoveries into innovations, in other words, moving on from an invention/discovery/theoretical framework and developing research in such a manner that its results may be directly materialised and commercialised. The European Commission has unveiled three main policy goals for EU to stimulate research and development (R & D):
- open innovation — opening-up the innovation process to people with experience in other fields (outside of academia and science) with the hope that this can be used to develop products and services that create new markets;
- open science — changing the way that scientific research is shared by introducing a new approach that is based on spreading knowledge and information as soon as it is available rather than publishing results in scientific journals after research is completed;
- open to the world — promoting international cooperation within the research community, such that Europe may access the latest knowledge, recruit the best talent and create business opportunities in emerging markets.
The Europe 2020 strategy is the EU’s growth strategy to become a ‘smart, sustainable and inclusive economy’. In 2010, the European Commission adopted a Communication launching a flagship initiative, the Innovation union (COM(2010) 546 final); this set out a strategic approach to a range of challenges like climate change, energy and food security, health and an ageing population. It is hoped that the promotion of innovation in these areas will lead to new ideas being transformed into new economic activities and products, which in turn will generate jobs, green growth and social progress. The innovation union seeks to use public sector intervention to stimulate the private sector, removing bottlenecks which may prevent ideas from reaching the market, such as access to finance, a lack of venture capital, fragmented research systems, the under-use of public procurement for innovation, and speeding-up harmonised standards and technical specifications. To promote the innovation union, a range of European innovation partnerships (EIPs) have been setup, designed to act as a framework for addressing major societal challenges: active and healthy ageing; agricultural sustainability and productivity; smart cities and communities; use, re-use and management of vital water resources; raw materials.
The Europe 2020 strategy set a target in relation to R & D intensity, namely that expenditure on R & D should be equivalent to at least 3.00 % of the EU-28’s GDP. The innovation union scoreboard tracks a broad range of innovation indicators, including educational standards, R & D expenditure, patent production and business innovation. The results are used in the annual growth survey, which helps EU Member States to determine their strengths and areas they need to focus more on.
Sustainable growth is increasingly related to the capacity of regional economies to innovate and transform, adapting to an ever-changing and more competitive environment. Promoting innovation is therefore a central feature of all cohesion policy programmes, alongside reducing the innovation differences that exist between EU regions. In the current budgetary period (2014-2020), investments under the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) are concentrated on four key thematic priorities: innovation and research, the digital agenda, support for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and the low-carbon economy.
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 expenditure, the number of R & D researchers, and the share of human resources in science and technology (HRST), with a special focus on scientists and engineers.
Research and development (R & D) expenditure
Research, knowledge and innovative capacity depend on a wide range of factors: business culture, workforce skills, education and training institutions, innovation support services, technology transfer mechanisms, regional infrastructure, the mobility of researchers, sources of finance or creative potential. Due to its nature, R & D tends to be concentrated physically, such that there are clusters of regions with relatively high R & D intensity. These are often situated around academic institutions or specific high-technology industrial activities and knowledge-based services, which foster a favourable environment, thereby attracting new start-ups and highly qualified personnel, such that the competitive advantage of these regions is further intensified. The EU has set-up mechanisms to share this know-how with surrounding regions that are lagging behind.
The Europe 2020 target for R & D expenditure in the EU-28 has been set at 3.00 % relative to GDP. This overall target is broken down into national targets that are based on the position of each EU Member State and commitments agreed between the European Commission and national administrations. The national targets range from 0.50 % of GDP in Cyprus to 3.76 % of GDP in Austria and 4.00 % of GDP in the traditionally R & D-intensive Member States of Finland and Sweden; there is no national target for the United Kingdom.
Gross domestic expenditure on R & D (GERD) includes expenditure on R & D by several sectors, namely: business enterprises, higher education institutions, as well as government and private non-profit organisations. It was valued at EUR 302.9 billion across the EU-28 in 2016; this equated to an average of EUR 594 of R & D expenditure per inhabitant. R & D expenditure in the EU-28 was 2.03 % relative to gross domestic product (GDP), which marked the third consecutive year with little or no change for this ratio.
About one third of all the regions in the EU where R & D intensity was greater than 3.00 % were located in Germany
The highest ratios for R & D intensity were concentrated in Germany, Austria, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Belgium: in 2015, these were the only EU Member States to report more than a single region where R & D intensity reached the overall EU target of 3.00 %. The highest levels of expenditure on R & D relative to GDP were usually recorded in capital city regions or regions characterised by their highly skilled labour force, for example, areas with research institutes, science parks or close collaboration between universities and private enterprise.
In total, there were 31 regions across the EU where R & D intensity exceeded the Europe 2020 target of 3.00 % — these are shown by the darkest shade in Map 1 — about one third of which were located in Germany (11 regions), including the northern region of Braunschweig, which had the highest ratio of R & D intensity among any of the NUTS level 2 regions in the EU, some 9.5 %. The second highest ratio in Germany — and the third highest ratio across the whole of the EU — was recorded in Stuttgart (6.2 %), while a ranking of the top six regions in Germany with the highest ratios was completed by Tübingen, Karlsruhe, Oberbayern and Dresden; each of these recorded R & D intensity within the range of 4.0-5.0 %.In 2015, five Austrian regions and five regions from the United Kingdom had R & D intensities above the Europe 2020 target of 3.00 %. The highest ratio among the five regions in Austria was recorded in the southern region of Steiermark (5.2 %), while East Anglia (4.6 %) and Cheshire (4.0 %) in the United Kingdom both had relatively high R & D intensities. By contrast, the highest R & D intensities in Sweden were systematically within the range of 3.0-4.0 %, with the highest ratio in Östra Mellansverige (3.9 %); the Swedish capital city region was another region with high R & D intensity. Among the three regions in Belgium with R & D intensity above the Europe 2020 target, there were two which bordered onto each other and were within close vicinity of the capital, namely, Prov. Brabant Wallon (6.5 %) and Prov. Vlaams-Brabant (4.2 %). Finally, there were also three individual regions from different EU Member States, where R & D intensity was higher than 3.00 %. Two of these were capital city regions in the Nordic Member States: the latest intensity ratios for Hovedstaden (Denmark) and Helsinki-Uusimaa (Finland) were 4.6 % and 3.6 % respectively. The other single region was somewhat atypical insofar as it was not a capital city region: rather, the highest rate of R & D intensity in France was recorded in the south-western region of Midi-Pyrénées (4.8 %; 2013 data), a region that has a particularly high level of research in aeronautics and aerospace.
The highest level of R & D intensity was recorded in the German region of Braunschweig, followed by the Belgian region of Prov. Brabant Wallon and Stuttgart (also in Germany)
Figure 1 also shows the 31 NUTS level 2 regions where R & D intensity was higher than 3.00 % in 2015. It is interesting to note that Braunschweig, Prov. Brabant Wallon and Stuttgart were the only regions where R & D intensity stood at a level that was more than twice as high as the Europe 2020 target. Otherwise, one of the most striking aspects of R & D expenditure is the way in which it is scattered in clusters across the EU. Indeed, there were considerable regional disparities, as relatively few regions recorded high levels of R & D intensity and a much larger number of regions had relatively low levels of R & D intensity. The skewed nature of this distribution is clear from the fact that 208 out of 272 NUTS level 2 regions recorded an R & D intensity that was below the EU-28 average of 2.04 %.Looking in more detail at the lower end of the range, there were 98 regions across the EU where R & D intensity was less than 1.00 % in 2015. Among these, 34 regions had a ratio that was less than 0.50 %. These lowest levels of R & D intensity were principally located in eastern and southern regions of the EU, and included: all but one region from Romania (the exception was the capital city region of Bucuresti - Ilfov); five regions from Poland; four (outermost and island) regions from Spain; three regions from Portugal (including both island regions); three regions from Greece (including one island region); two regions from Bulgaria; and single regions from each of the Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary and the island region of Cyprus (a single region at this level of detail). Aside from these 28 regions that were located in eastern and southern EU Member States, R & D intensity was also less than 1.00 % in four regions located in the United Kingdom, as well as the island regions of Corse (France; 2013 data) and Åland (Finland).
The analysis presented in Map 2 is based on changes in R & D intensity between 2005 and 2015; these differences are measured in percentage point terms. R & D expenditure relative to GDP rose by 0.30 points during the period under consideration in the EU-28, to reach 2.04 % by 2015. This development — namely, an increase in R & D intensity — was repeated in the vast majority of NUTS level 2 regions for which data are available — 216 out of 261 regions — as clearly shown by the predominance of blue shading in the map.
There were 24 regions in the EU where the ratio of R & D intensity rose by at least 0.75 points between 2005 and 2015 (as shown by the darkest shade of blue in Map 2): they were principally located in mainland Europe and included many of the regions that form the industrial heartlands of the EU, running from Franche-Comté in eastern France across to Podkarpackie in Poland and Dél-Alföld in Hungary. The biggest gain — an increase of 4.04 points — took place in Braunschweig (which had the highest level of R & D intensity in the EU in 2015), while the three next largest increases for R & D intensity were reported in Trier (Germany; up 2.36 points), Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire (the United Kingdom; 2.08 points) and Steiermark (Austria; 1.87 points during the period 2006-2015); in 2015, all three of these had a level of R & D intensity that was higher than the Europe 2020 target of 3.00 %.There were 40 regions in the EU where the importance of R & D expenditure relative to GDP declined between 2005 and 2015 (as shown by the orange shade in Map 2). The seven regions that reported a rapid decline of R & D intensity — a fall of more than 0.75 points (as shown by the dark orange shade) — were located exclusively in either the United Kingdom or Sweden. The biggest reduction was recorded in Essex (the United Kingdom), where R & D intensity fell by 1.64 points, dropping to 1.55 % by 2015.
Researchers are directly employed within R & D activities and are defined as ‘professionals engaged in the conception or creation of new knowledge, products, processes, methods and systems and in the management of the projects concerned’.
There were an estimated 2.85 million researchers active across the EU-28 in 2015. Their number — as a simple headcount — has grown at a steady pace in recent years, rising from 2.02 million in 2005; this was equivalent to an average increase of 3.5 % per annum. An alternative measure for labour input adjusts the number of researchers to take account of different working hours and working patterns. Based on this, there were 1.85 million full-time equivalent (FTE) researchers in the EU-28 in 2015, an increase of 471.1 thousand compared with a decade earlier (or an average increase of 3.0 % per annum).
In 2015, the 1.85 million full-time equivalent workers who were employed as researchers across the EU-28 represented 0.86 % of its total workforce. The distribution of researchers was highly skewed across the regions of the EU: the relative weight of researchers in the total number of persons employed was higher than the EU-28 average in 81 NUTS level 2 regions, while there were 190 regions that recorded shares below the EU-28 average (see Map 3).
Unsurprisingly, those regions where researchers accounted for a relatively high proportion of the total number of persons employed were often the same as those which were characterised by high R & D intensity; they were joined by several capital city regions. This was particularly the case for Inner London - West (one of the capital city regions in the United Kingdom), where the share of researchers in the total number of persons employed peaked at 5.1 %, considerably higher than in any other region as the second highest share was in the Belgian region of Prov. Brabant Wallon (2.8 %).There were 11 regions in the EU-28 where researchers accounted for more than 2.00 % of the total number of persons employed in 2015. Seven of these were capital city regions: along with Inner London – West, the others included Hovedstaden (Denmark), Helsinki-Uusimaa (Finland), Bratislavský kraj (Slovakia), Praha (the Czech Republic), Île de France (France) and Région de Bruxelles-Capitale / Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest (Belgium). The relatively high number of researchers in capital city regions may be attributed, at least in part, to research and academic institutions often being located in these capital cities. By contrast, the four non-capital city regions where researchers accounted for more than 2.00 % of the workforce were all characterised by their high levels of R & D intensity and were Braunschweig, Prov. Brabant Wallon, Stuttgart and Prov. Vlaams-Brabant — the first three of these had the highest levels of R & D intensity among any of the regions in the EU.
Human resources in science and technology (HRST)
Human resources in science and technology (HRST) are defined as persons who fulfil at least one of the following two criteria:
- have completed a tertiary level of education;
- are employed in a science and technology occupation (defined here as those who work as science and engineering professionals, health professionals, or information and communications technology professionals).
HRST contributed 128.6 million persons to the EU-28’s workforce in 2017. One interesting feature of this workforce was that a majority of the persons employed were women (66.6 million). Combining the two HRST criteria, there were 52.0 million people who met both the educational and occupational criteria across the EU-28 in 2017.
Map 4 shows the share of HRST in the economically active population: in 2017, across the whole of the EU-28 this figure stood at 44.8 %. The regional distribution of HRST among NUTS level 2 regions reveals that the regions with the highest shares were often characterised by having a high degree of R & D intensity or a high share of researchers. There was an almost equal split between those with shares above and below the EU-28 average: 135 of the 276 regions for which data are available had a share of HRST in the economically active population that was higher than the EU-28 average.
At the top end of the distribution, there were 12 regions where the share of HRST was higher than 60.0 % (as shown by the darkest shade in Map 4). Among these, the highest proportions were recorded in the two capital city regions of the United Kingdom, as the share of HRST in the active population was more than four out of every five persons (80.8 %) in Inner London - West, and was 71.7 % for Inner London - East. This high concentration of HRST in the capital of the United Kingdom was reinforced by many of the regions clustered around Inner London also reporting that HRST accounted for a majority of their active populations, notably in: Outer London - South (66.4 %; the third highest share in the EU), Outer London - West and North West (63.3 %) and Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire (62.4 %).
The seven other regions in the EU where the share of HRST in the economically active population rose above 60.0 % included four other capital city regions, namely: Stockholm (64.9 %), Helsinki-Uusimaa (61.8 %), Île de France (60.5 %) and Praha (60.2 %). The final three regions were located in the Benelux Member States, with two regions surrounding the Belgian capital — Prov. Brabant Wallon (66.2 %) and Prov. Vlaams-Brabant (61.9 %) — while the third was the central Dutch region of Utrecht (60.1 %).There were a further 44 regions across the EU-28 where HRST accounted for at least half of the economically active population in 2017. These were principally located in western or northern regions of the EU and included the capital city regions of Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg (a single region at this level of detail), the Netherlands and Austria. This list was completed by four regions from Spain (the capital city region and three northern regions) as well as the capital city regions of three eastern EU Member States, namely, Bratislavský kraj (Slovakia), Mazowieckie (Poland) and Zahodna Slovenija (Slovenia).
Human resources in science and technology accounted for almost 7 out of every 10 economically active women in London
In the EU-28, almost half (49.2 %) of the female economically active population were classified as HRST in 2017; the corresponding share for men was 8.2 percentage points lower, at 41.0 %. Figure 2 provides an analysis by sex for the share of HRST within the economically active population, with the regional analysis for NUTS level 1 regions. The information presented is split into two parts, showing the top 20 regions for each sex with the highest shares of HRST in their economically active populations; note that the same region may appear in both rankings. Overall, there were 50 NUTS level 1 regions across the EU where the female share of HRST accounted for at least half of the economically active population in 2017, while the corresponding count for men was 13 regions.
In 2017, London recorded the highest shares of HRST for both sexes: 69.0 % for women and 66.2 % for men. The latter figure was 8.0 percentage points higher than in any other region of the EU, as the second highest male share of HRST was 58.2 % in the French capital city region of Île de France. A similar comparison for women reveals a somewhat smaller gap, 5.0 points, with the second highest share for female HRST recorded in the German capital city region of Berlin (64.0 %).
A closer analysis reveals that there was a gender gap in favour of women for every region presented in Figure 2. Among those with the highest male shares of HRST (the left-hand side), the largest gap was recorded in Berlin — where the female share of HRST was 64.0 %, some 10.5 points higher than for men. The next largest gaps were recorded in two Belgian regions, as the female share of HRST was 8.6 points higher than the male share in Vlaams Gewest, while the difference between the sexes was 7.9 points for the capital city Région de Bruxelles-Capitale/Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest.A similar comparison for the top 20 regions with the highest female shares of HRST (the right-hand side of Figure 2) reveals that the gender gaps were often larger. The gaps were particularly large in Lithuania and Estonia (both single regions at this level of detail), Region Centralny (Poland) and Åland (Finland), where the female shares of HRST were close to 20.0 points above the male shares.
Most regions in the EU were characterised by relatively low levels of female participation in science and engineering
The existence of a gender gap in favour of women for HRST does not extend to all aspects of science and technology. For example, boys continue to account for a higher share of pupils/students in several scientific domains. Such gender differences are often established at an early age, as boys are more likely than girls to envisage a career as ICT professionals, scientists or engineers. To redress the relatively low levels of female participation in science and engineering, there have been a number of global, European and national initiatives to: promote positive female role models; set-up programmes to encourage girls to pursue careers in science; highlight the obstacles that prevent women from moving up the career ladder in science. A United Nations decision established 11 February as the International day of women and girls in science.
Figure 3 provides a more detailed analysis in relation to one of the two HRST criteria, looking at the number of persons employed in science and technology occupations, with specific information for the number of professional scientists and engineers. In 2017, there were 17.6 million scientists and engineers in the EU-28: 10.5 million were men, equivalent to 59.5 % of the total. This gender distribution in favour of men was repeated in most of the EU Member States, although Lithuania, Bulgaria, Latvia, Portugal and Denmark were exceptions, each recording a higher number of female rather than male scientists and engineers.In 2017, scientists and engineers accounted for a 7.9 % share of the male labour force in the EU-28; this figure was 1.6 percentage points higher than the corresponding share for women (6.3 %). Across NUTS level 1 regions, the highest share of scientists and engineers in the male labour force was recorded in Manner-Suomi (mainland Finland) at 14.0 %, while the highest female share was in Östra Sverige (eastern Sweden) at 11.7 %. There were only seven NUTS level 1 regions across the EU where the female share of scientists and engineers was in double-digits which could be contrasted with a count of 24 regions where the male share of scientists and engineers was at least 10.0 %.
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 determines the datasets, analyses, frequency and transmission delays to be respected by the EU Member States for these statistics.
Other statistics that are used to analyse research and innovation are principally derived from other statistical domains within Eurostat or from a range of international databases provided by other 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 current methodology for R & D statistics is laid down in the Frascati manual: proposed standard practice for surveys on research and experimental development (OECD, 2002). The new edition of the Frascati manual, published in 2015, is gradually being implemented and will be used for future data collections.
The methodology for statistics on HRST is laid down in the Canberra manual (OECD, 1995), which lists all HRST concepts.
For more information:
A Communication from the European Commission on Regional policy contributing to smart growth in Europe 2020 (COM(2010) 553 final) explores ways in which regional policy can be used to unlock the growth potential of the EU through identifying activities that offer the best chance of strengthening a region’s competitiveness, while encouraging interaction between businesses, research centres and universities on the one hand and local, regional and national administrations on the other.
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, so as 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.
In order to pool talent and achieve a necessary scale, policymakers seek to encourage transnational cooperation within the European research area (ERA). The ERA: aims to ensure open and transparent trade in scientific and technical skills, ideas and know-how; sets out to create a unified research area that is open to the world; promotes the free movement of researchers, knowledge and technology.
In July 2012, the European Commission adopted the Communication A reinforced European research area partnership for excellence and growth (COM(2012) 392 final), focusing on five key priority areas for reforming/completing the ERA: more effective national research systems; optimal transnational cooperation and competition; an open labour market for researchers; gender equality and gender mainstreaming in research; and optimal circulation and transfer of scientific knowledge. A second progress report on ERA (COM(2014) 575 final) was released in September 2014. It concluded that while there were still big differences between EU Member States in the way research funding was allocated, virtually all had adopted a national strategy on research and innovation. In May 2015, the ERA Roadmap 2015-2020 was adopted. Its purpose is to identify a limited number of key implementation priorities which are likely to have the biggest impact on Europe’s science, research and innovation systems, including: effective national research systems; addressing grand challenges; making optimal use of public investments in research infrastructures; an open labour market for researchers; gender equality and gender mainstreaming in research; optimal circulation and transfer of scientific knowledge; international cooperation. In 2015, a core set of 24 indicators were agreed upon in order to measure the progress of ERA and these are presented in ERA progress reports.
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 Europe 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.
- Regional science and technology statistics (t_reg_sct)
- Human resources in science and technology (HRST) by NUTS 2 regions (tgs00038)
- Employment in high-tech sectors by NUTS 2 regions (tgs00039)
- Intramural R&D expenditure (GERD) by NUTS 2 regions (tgs00042)
- Researchers, all sectors by NUTS 2 regions (tgs00043)
- Research and development (t_research)
- High-tech industry and knowledge-intensive services (t_htec)
- Human Resources in Science & Technology (t_hrst)
- Regional science and technology statistics (reg_sct)
- R&D expenditure and personnel (reg_rd)
- Employment in high technology sectors (reg_htec)
- 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)
- High-tech industry and knowledge-intensive services (htec)
- Employment in high-tech industry and knowledge-intensive services (HTEC) (htec_emp)
- Science and technology in high-tech industry and knowledge-intensive services (HTEC) (htec_sti)
- Human resources in science & technology (hrst)
- Stocks of HRST at national and regional levels (hrst_st)
- Science, technology and innovation, see Methodology
- High-tech industry and knowledge-intensive services (ESMS metadata file — htec_esms)
- Statistics on research and development (ESMS metadata file — rd_esms)
- Human resources in science & technology (ESMS metadata file — hrst_esms)
- 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