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Brussels, 22nd February 2007

The innovation gap with the US keeps narrowing

For the fourth consecutive year, the innovation gap between the US and the EU has decreased. The Nordic countries and Switzerland continue to be the innovation leaders worldwide, while many of the new Member States are steadily catching up with the EU average. These are some of the main findings of the European Innovation Scoreboard 2006, published today. The report presents a comparative analysis of the innovation performance of European countries, the US and Japan.

Commissioned by the Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry of the European Commission, the European Innovation Scoreboard is prepared by the Maastricht Economic Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT) assisted by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission.

As in previous editions of the European Innovation Scoreboard, national performances differ. Based on their overall innovation score and their recent historical trend, the authors grouped the countries in four categories (see chart 1):

  • Innovation leaders: Sweden, Switzerland, Finland, Denmark, Germany and Japan
  • Innovation followers: UK, Iceland, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Ireland, US
  • Catching-up countries: Slovenia, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Portugal, Poland, Latvia, Greece, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania
  • Trailing countries: Estonia, Spain, Italy, Malta, Hungary, Croatia and Slovakia

Luxembourg, Norway and Turkey would not fit in any of these categories.

The European Innovation Scoreboard measures the innovation performance of a country’s economy based on a wide range of indicators, from education to expenditure in Information and Communication Technologies, investment in R&D or number of patents. Countries with a more homogeneous behavior in all aspects of innovation tend to achieve higher overall scores. Practically all EU Member States excel in one or another dimension of innovation, but only a few of them (the innovation leaders) achieve an overall performance that grants world innovation leadership.

Convergence process

The report suggests that there is a process of convergence in the innovation performance of Member States. That is, catching-up countries are closing the gap with the EU average and both country groups of innovation leaders and followers are experiencing a relative decline in their innovation lead.

The innovation gap with the US explained

While the innovation gap with the US has been decreasing steadily for the last four years, it still exists. This gap can be largely explained by the superior US performance in early-stage venture capital availability, share of population with tertiary education and number of US patents. The gap between the EU and Japan is also decreasing and the factors explaining the remaining gap are similar.

Chart 1. Innovation performance and recent trends

[ Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED ]

Note: This chart indicates the Summary Innovation Index (SII) on the vertical axis and the average growth rate of the SII over the last 5 years on the horizontal axis. Countries above the horizontal dotted line currently have an innovation performance above that of the EU. Countries to the right of the vertical dotted line had a faster average increase in the SII than the EU.

The full report is available at

For individual summaries of the innovation performance of all 27 Member States see MEMO/07/74

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