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European Commission Vice-President responsible for Industry and Entrepreneurship
Innovation Union Scoreboard 2013
26 March 2013
This year’s edition of the innovation scoreboard allows us to measure – for the first time – the effects of the economic crisis on research and innovation in Europe.
The results are not positive. The economic crisis has had a negative impact on innovation in some regions of Europe, with grave consequences for growth.
If we want to keep on being globally competitive – and I will never tire of saying this – we have to focus above all on quality and not just on quantity.
That means we need innovative products and services, creative entrepreneurs and a highly competitive industry.
If we take a look at some of this year’s figures in detail (on the slide behind me), we can draw a number of conclusions:
1) Of the countries that we call innovation leaders, Sweden is in first place, followed by Germany, Denmark and Finland. These are the EU’s most innovative countries.
2) Next comes a second group, the innovation followers, which have results that are above or close to the EU average. This group includes the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, the UK, Austria, Ireland, France, Slovenia, Cyprus and Estonia.
3) The third group consists of moderate innovators with results below the EU average, and includes: Italy, Spain, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Greece, Slovakia, Hungary, Malta and Lithuania.
4) The fourth group contains the countries whose performance is well below theEU27 average, which are known as modest innovators: Poland, Latvia, Romania and Bulgaria.
The overall rankings remain largely the same as last year. Apart from a few countries changing places within a group, there were no changes of note.
This is partly because innovation capacity is not simply created overnight. Cultivating talent, developing skills and acting to ensure that investments mature – these all take time.
However, through a close study of the figures two important points come to light.
First, the results of the exercise cannot simply be reduced to a ranking designed only to measure innovation capacity in absolute terms. What also counts is the commitment to making up lost ground: having the capacity to improve and grow.
In that way, in relative terms, Estonia is undoubtedly the European leader in innovation growth, followed by Lithuania and Latvia, because these are the countries – despite being a long behind the leaders – that have the highest rate of improvement.
Second, despite the fact that almost all Member States have improved their innovation performance to differing degrees, capacity for growth is not the same across the European Union. That gap is growing wider instead of closing, and this – in my opinion – is the most worrying result.
This year’s figures, in fact, demonstrate that innovation has stopped converging within the EU. The least innovative countries are no longer catching up on the most innovative countries.
The least innovative countries seem to be those that face the most challenging structural problems. The economic crisis has accentuated these problems, especially in Portugal, Greece and Hungary. In Bulgaria, Malta and Poland innovation activity has also come to an abrupt halt.
Taking the positive indicators, the one that stands out most is the figure on the increase of innovation among SMEs that cooperate with each other (+7.9%). This means that in times of crisis, there is a trend for SMEs to cooperate to seek synergies and to benefit from economies of scale in investment, which is confirmation of our work to promote clusters and the internationalisation of SMEs.
A second significant positive indicator: above and beyond SMEs, innovation is now mainly driven by taking the results of research and marketing them abroad through licences, patents and the registration of Community trademarks (+6%). This means that the European research system is strong and is still producing excellent results that continue to be utilised outside the European Union. We should work in a way that this positive factor does not become a risk factor, if accompanied by a loss of know-how and development / production outside the EU.
When we look at the negative indicators, however, what stands out is a sharp decline in business spending on non-technological innovation (−5.2%) and the fact that the availability of venture capital funds is much lower (−3.1%).
Overall we see setbacks in sectors subject to short-term decision-making, while results continue to improve in areas driven by decisions made in the past, before the economic crisis intensified.
In conclusion, investment in innovation is vital to maintaining our global competitiveness and reviving growth in Europe.
Without innovation we will not achieve our goal of raising industry’s contribution to GDP to 20%, a target we have set in our new strategy on industrial policy.
This makes it more and more important and increasingly urgent to coordinate these policies at the European level. The conclusions of the last European Council point in the same direction.
This is the approach I intend to adopt at the next European Council in June, which will be dedicated to industrial policy and again, together with Máire, at the following European Council, which will be dedicated to innovation.
I will now give the floor to Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn, who will focus on the international dimension of the scoreboard and the different actions aimed at achieving the Innovation Union.