Europe lags behind US and Japan on innovation


Once again Europe is trailing the United States, Japan and South Korea when it comes to boosting innovation and meeting EU targets of devoting 3% of GDP to research and development.

New data released yesterday (7 February) by the European Commission show that almost all 27 EU countries have improved their innovation performance but have not managed to close the consistent gap with global innovation leaders like the United States, Japan and South Korea.

Antonio Tajani, European commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, said the results of the scorecard were “a clear warning that more efforts to boost innovation are needed. If we want to close the gap with our main economic partners and to overcome the current crisis, innovation deserves all our attention.”

The EU still maintains a clear lead over emerging economies such as China, Brazil, India, Russia and South Africa. However, China is catching up quickly.

Within the EU, Sweden confirms its position at the top of the overall ranking, followed closely by Denmark, Germany and Finland.

“We need balanced national research and innovation systems that provide an innovation-friendly environment for business. The scoreboard also identifies a gap with the US in terms of top-end research. We urgently need a European Research Area to inject fresh competition, generate more excellence, and attract and retain the best global talent ", said Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science.

The scorecard underlines that stimulating innovation cannot happen only by boosting financing. It says eliminating administrative burdens and red tape are also important.

To catch up with the global innovation leaders, the Commission stressed that member states need to improve their educational system and have more young people study science and technology.

If this doesn’t change, Europe’s innovators will continue moving to places where it’s easier to succeed – like the United States.

According to the Commission, countries at the top of the ranking share a number of strengths in their national research and innovation systems, including dynamic public-private partnerships.

While there is not a single way to reach improve innovation, it is clear that innovation leaders – Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Germany – perform very well in R&D expenditures, as well as in the commercialisation of their technological knowledge.

Switzerland outperforms EU neighbours

Switzerland still remains in the least on innovation, out-performing the best EU countries.

The Federal Office for Professional Education and Technology said in a statement that Switzerland stood out in particular because of the number of patent applications and sales of new products. It added that economic activities requiring higher knowledge and exports of high and medium technology boosted innovation.

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