Brussels, 07 Apr 2005
The Commission's European TrendChart on Innovation has published a report entitled 'Innovation Policy in Europe 2004', providing an overview of the challenges faced by EU Member States seeking to improve their innovation performance.
The report details the innovation policies and implementation practices applied in Europe on a country-by-country basis, and compares the EU's performance with that of other countries in Europe and the rest of the world.
According to the report, in the EU25 there are many similarities in the innovation challenges facing Member States, 'while the best practice policies tend to focus in different directions according to national needs'.
Five EU-wide trends are identified through an analysis of recent policy developments in each country. First, there is a significant effort to increase the skills and competencies of people contributing to innovation, and to strengthen linkages between such individuals, both nationally and internationally.
The report notices a strong regional role in many recent initiatives, fuelled primarily by the Structural Funds in the new Member States. Furthermore, there is a drive to increase the overall intensity of innovation activities by encouraging private enterprises to invest more in R&D.
The fourth trend identified in the report relates to an accent on the role of regulations, public procurement and other framework conditions influencing the performance of innovation systems. Lastly, there is a general trend towards forming partnership-based initiatives aimed at improving the innovation system through increased stakeholder cooperation.
Despite these EU-wide trends, however, the realities in each Member State vary widely. In the Czech Republic, for example, the report warns that recent trends in innovation performance give cause for concern, with the country falling further behind the EU25 average. Major challenges include an inadequate supply of human resources and a lack of incentives for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to innovate. A range of programmes has been launched through the Structural Funds in response, including a number that focus on new product development and technology transfer.
In Slovenia, meanwhile, the country's position in terms of innovation 'is in many respects enviable with respect to other new Member States, to the extent that it performs above EU25 average for six indicators,' the report states. The country has been a front-runner in developing cluster initiatives to support innovation, and a recent evaluation of the innovation programme launched in Slovenia in 2000 suggests that it has had some notable success in boosting competitiveness.
Moving on, the report reveals that: 'The overall performance of the Swedish innovation system is extremely good compared to the EU25. Yet, a number of trends give cause for concern including problems with recruiting students to S&E disciplines, SMEs innovating in-house and rates of non-technical innovation.' In response, the national innovation agency VINNOVA is evaluating a Swedish version of the US small business innovation research (SBIR) scheme, which provides for a percentage of all research funding to be allocated to new small business initiatives.
In its evaluation of the EU's innovation performance compared with other regions of the world, the report concludes that the US in particular offers a wide-range of lessons for high-income EU countries. 'The US programmes that support state-level initiatives with federal dollars [...] offer a potential areas of study for the EU,' it adds. Canada, meanwhile, 'offers a clear example for smaller EU countries of a competitive economy with its own robust innovative system that is able to compete with its large neighbour.' To download a copy of the report, please: click here