Baden-Württemberg leads EU in innovation

For the sixth time in a row, Germany’s state of Baden-Württemberg scored first place in the EU-wide innovation comparison. [Heribert Pohl/Flickr]

Within the EU, Germany’s state of Baden-Württemberg is the region with the strongest innovative capacity, with no other European region investing as much economic output in research and development. EURACTIV Germany reports.

For the sixth time in a row, Germany’s state of Baden-Wuerttemberg scored first place in the EU-wide innovation comparison. The result was announced by the State Statistical Office of Baden-Wuerttemberg on Thursday (11 December).

No other European region showed a higher investment of economic output in research and development. No region had a higher share of the labour force in research-intensive branches of industry. And the number of  patent applications, relative to the population, was also unparalleled in the EU.

“A central factor for the advantage is the high importance placed on research and development in southwestern German companies and the interlinkage with colleges and institutes in the region,” explained Hugo Hämmerle from the research alliance Innovationsallianz Baden-Württemberg (innBW).

The State Statistical Office developed an innovation index which makes it possible to comparatively assess the innovative capacity of 87 regions in the 28 EU member states. For each region, data from six innovation indicators is collected (including research and development spending, patent applications, business start-ups and the number of social security paying employees in high-tech sectors), aggregated to create the index and then compiled for the Europe-wide innovation comparison. The index calculations have taken place biannually since the year 2004.

In the latest results, Baden-Württemberg scored 71 out of 100 points. Bavaria ranked second, with 56 points, and third place was taken by Île de France, with 55 points. The Scandinavian countries followed close behind. For all of these regions, R&D (research and development) made up 3-4% of GDP.

EU countries Greece, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania scored the lowest in the innovation study.

Compared to the same calculations made in 2012, there were only minimal changes in the ranking among innovation leaders. Bavaria, for example, overtook the French capital region Île de France, and Denmark passed Finland.

Still, Hämmerle said the lack of dynamism in Baden-Württemberg is concerning. “At the moment we are eating into our capital,” he pointed out.

Business start-ups have been at a low for sometime now, Hämmerle explained, patent applications among small- and medium-sized enterprises are decreasing and the degree of commercialisation among research results is far too low.

Countermeasures should be taken soon, otherwise the German state will be passed by other regions, the innBW spokesman said.

Further, the region is not only “threatened” by Europe’s innovative regions like Switzerland, where many medium-sized companies are very successful. Other global regions like Singapore or China are well on their way to catching up with Germany’s southwest.

China, for example, was able to make considerable progress, with R&D making up close to 1.8% of GDP.

Although this is only about a third of Baden-Württemberg’s share, China’s annual 21% growth rate in R&D spending means the country is likely to catch up in just a few years. In absolute figures, China invests twice as much as Germany: €163 billion compared to €76 billion.

Last November, the European Parliament formally approved Horizon 2020, the funding programme for research and innovation for the 2014-2020 period, almost putting the final seal on a budget tranche that would rise by 30% from the current period to a total of €80 billion.

Horizon 2020 is a part of Innovation Union, a Europe 2020 flagship initiative aimed at enhancing global competitiveness. The European Union leads the world in some technologies, but faces increasing competition from traditional powers and emerging economies alike.

State Statistical Office Baden-Wuerttemberg (German language): Innovationsindex 2014: Vergleich zwischen den Regionen der Europäischen Union

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