A new European Commission publication titled Innovation Union Competitiveness report 2011: Overall review of EU Member States and Associated Countries is the first in a series of biennial reports to examine progress in the Innovation Union flagship initiative towards the Europe 2020 strategy. Using selected indicators (e.g. co-publications between European countries, small and medium enterprises [SME] participation and performance, and intensity of research and development), the report offers in-depth country profiles and issues 12 key findings, among them:
- there is an expanding gap between EU and world competitors (e.g. Japan and the US) in business (private) research and development (R&D);
- despite the increase in public R&D budgets in many European countries, the net figures signal a decrease in spending when budgets are examined next to overall GDP and
- Europe must increase its number of researchers – primarily in the private sector – by two-thirds in order to reach the Europe 2020 target of attaining a 3% investment of the EU’s GDP in R&D.
Nevertheless, the report also signals positive developments at both the European level and more regionally or locally. For example,
- the EU is outpacing the US and Japan in the number of doctoral candidates (i.e. in 2008 there were 1.5 million full-time researchers in the EU compared to 1.4 million and 0.71 million in the US and Japan, respectively);
- using high-impact scientific publications as a proxy for scientific quality, Denmark, Iceland, the Netherlands and Sweden are the leading European countries with the largest share of published research and
- Estonia, France, Latvia, Portugal, Spain and the UK are highlighted for establishing programmes to support university and research institute efforts to increase their knowledge and technology transfer to the public and private sectors.
Meanwhile, the Innovation Union Scoreboard (IUS), which was first published in February 2011 (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, February 2011), will continue to be published annually and serve as an interim benchmarking tool to compare performance in research, development and innovation among EU member states and associated countries. It will also as serve as a tool to compare progress with countries outside the European Higher Education and Research Areas.