3. An Inclusive Europe
3.3 No places left behind
Regional R&I systems show signs of convergence although a high concentration of innovation and technological activities remains.
A high concentration of R&D investment implies that some EU regions are better positioned for the knowledge-driven economy. The most R&D-intensive regions are all concentrated in western and northern Europe.
R&D investment shows a high concentration of R&D expenditure in a few regions, typically capital regions or those with large urban agglomerations.
The average R&D intensity of the top 30 EU regions is more than twice that of the EU as a whole. In some of these regions, R&D intensity is heavily influenced by the presence of a single large tech company.
There is a faster convergence trend in research activities, although some gaps in innovation systems seem to be more persistent.
That concerns, in particular, the outputs linked to business innovation – with either significant gaps (e.g. patents) or a lack of convergence (e.g. enterprise innovation). Indicators monitored by the Regional Innovation Scoreboard suggest a convergence in R&I performance across the EU for the period 2011-2019.
Nevertheless, a group of low-performing regions has barely improved and has slowed down the convergence process.
Tertiary attainment and top scientific publications are at the frontier of the convergence process, although some other indicators, such as scientific excellence, show persistent differences.
An increasing concentration of economic and innovative activities in some parts of the Member States results in negative developments in catching-up regions with low capacity to exploit innovation.
While long-term trends suggest the convergence of poorer Member States and regions towards a higher level of GDP per capita, there has recently been a slowdown and growing divergence within many countries.
In terms of the growth rate of GDP per capita, convergence at the regional level has been particularly strong in Bucharest in Romania and Bratislava in Slovakia enabling them to surpass the national growth rates.
At the same time, these strong growth rates also contribute to the increase in inequalities within countries at the regional level. These high regional growth rates reveal that overall country trends contain different patterns at the regional level.