Europe is gaining ground on the US in the field of innovation thanks mainly to Nordic countries leading the way.
The EU-US innovation gap has been decreasing year-on-year since 2003, according to a 2006 report. The latest version of the EU's "innovation scoreboard" reveals it was the Danes, Finns, Germans and Swedes who were ahead of the pack, establishing themselves as world leaders in the field. The report also highlighted outstanding performance in life-long learning, with participation levels highest among the Swedish population at 35%, compared to Europe’s overall 11%.
Published by a Maastricht research institute, the scoreboard ranks the economies of 34 countries on the basis of 25 indicators, including education, investment in modern technologies, R&D expenditure and numbers of patents granted. The countries under the microscope are the US, Japan and the EU, as well as Croatia, Turkey, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.
The report identifies four main groups:
Innovation leaders: Sweden, Switzerland, Finland, Denmark, Germany and Japan
Innovation followers: UK, Iceland, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Ireland, US
Countries catching-up: Slovenia, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Portugal, Poland, Latvia, Greece, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania
Trailing countries: Estonia, Spain, Italy, Malta, Hungary, Croatia and Slovakia
The "trailing countries" have scored well below the innovation average for the EU as a whole and require substantial investment to catch up.
Luxembourg, Norway and Turkey would not fit in any of these categories.
A survey by the EU's statistical office Eurostat reveals that over 40% of European companies are actively innovating, more frequently in collaboration with customers and suppliers than with universities and public research institutes.