Sweden ranks top in innovation, followed by Denmark, Finland and Germany. And yet the EU is failing to close the innovation gap with its main competitors, the United States and Japan.
"If Europe stands still we will see the US disappear into the distance just as we feel emerging nations breathing down our necks […] Europe is 27 countries and our efforts on research and innovation have been more fragmented than we can afford," said Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, commissioner for research, innovation and science.
The first scoreboard under the Innovation Union initiative comes just days before EU leaders meet in Brussels for a one-day summit on energy and innovation.
According to draft conclusions obtained by EurActiv, leaders are expected to call for:
- A European Research Area to be completed by 2014 to create "a genuine single market for knowledge, research and innovation";
- "Rapid progress" to ensure the Digital Single Market is created by 2015, and;
- The Commission to present a proposal by the end of this year to lift the legal and administrative blocks to cross-border venture capital funds, a major problem for small- and medium-sized companies in search of fresh capital.
In measuring the innovation levels in Europe, the Commission evaluated the countries based on 25 indicators that fall into three broad categories: building blocks that allow innovation; investments, entrepreneurship and intellectual assets; and economic outputs.
After the leaders come the innovation followers: the UK, Belgium, Austria, Ireland, Luxembourg, France, Cyprus, Slovenia and Estonia, in that order.
Below the EU average on the innovation scale were Croatia, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia and Spain.
The laggards were Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania.
"Innovation is as essential to a successful modern economy as water is to life. It is at the core of economic policymaking and the main way economies create jobs," said Antonio Tajani, commissioner for industry and entrepreneurship.