Caroline Davis reports on how we measure up to the challenge of innovation
The UK is the most innovative of the world's larger economies, according to new European Commission data.
The 2002 European Innovation Scoreboard paints a rosy picture of the UK, despite domestic pessimism about its technology-transfer record, falling applications for science and engineering degrees and low spending on public research.
The report congratulates the government's education and science policy.
The UK's Eastern and Southeast regions were rated among the ten most innovative of 148 regions across Europe.
The UK turned out the fourth highest proportion of science and engineering graduates in 2000, after Ireland, France and Finland, beating Japan and the US. In addition, spending on public research and development is rising faster than the EU average.
The scoreboard compared the performances of European Union member states against each other, as well as against Japan and the US. It looked at 17 indicators such as human resources, the creation of new knowledge, the transmission and application of knowledge and innovation finance, outputs and markets. It is based mainly on information from Eurostat.
The results showed that although the UK faced tough challenges in education and innovation, the issues were global and the UK was well placed to meet them.
Overall, it showed that the US and Japan led the EU on most innovation indicators. But there was a trend suggesting that the EU would catch up. The EU led Japan in all trend indicators and was improving faster than the US in five. Within Europe, the UK was rated alongside Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands and Sweden as an innovation leader. Austria, Belgium, Germany, France and Ireland were described as innovation followers.
The scoreboard report provides a boost for UK government policy on education and learning. It says: "The United Kingdom scores strong in all indicators related to education and learning. The supply of new (science) and (engineering) graduates is well above the EU mean. The UK is leading for the participation of the population in lifelong learning. This is probably due to a diverse range of successful government measures in this field."
But, according to the report, the UK lagged badly in investment in R&D, particularly from the private sector.
PARTICIPATION IN LIFELONG LEARNING
PUBLIC RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT EXPENDITURE
SOURCE: European Innovation Scoreboard 2002