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EU Closing Innovation Gap with US

Mark Marich

The innovation performance in European Union countries is on the rise—cutting in half the gap between it and the United States. However, the internal gap between EU member nations is widening.

Sweden, Germany, Denmark and Finland sit at the top of the European Commission Innovation Union Scoreboard 2013 while Poland, Latvia, Romania and Bulgaria anchor the bottom of the 27 member states.

While the overall performance of the EU has improved at an annual average rate 1.6% over the past five years, the innovation index has worsened in 9 countries: with a slight decline in United Kingdom (-0.2%) and in Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Portugal, Romania, Greece. The most dramatic deteriorations were in Bulgaria (-18.7%) and Malta (-16.0%).

Estonia (7.1%) was recognized as the “unquestionable innovation growth leader.”

The Scoreboard factors 24 indicators including rates of high-growth innovative firms, R&D expenditures, venture capital investment, patent applications, education rates, license and patent revenues from abroad, knowledge sector employment and others.

"This year's results show that the economic crisis has negatively impacted innovation activity in some parts of Europe,” said European Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship. “Investment in innovation is crucial if we want to maintain our global competitiveness and restore growth in Europe. We need to encourage entrepreneurship.”

What is the common thread for the innovation leaders? According to the Commission, the business sectors perform very well in research & development (R&D) expenditure and patent applications. They also share a well-developed higher education sector and strong linkages between industry and science.

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