European innovation catching up with US and Japan

Europe is closing the innovation gap with Japan and the US, but the UK is seen as a "follower" rather than "leader", according to a report by the European Commission.

The Global Innovation Scoreboard compares the 27 European Union (EU) countries with global leaders in research and development, including the US and Japan.

Despite the UK ranking above the EU average, it was listed as an innovation follower, along with Austria, Belgium, France, Iceland, Ireland, the Netherlands and the US.

Those at the cutting edge, the innovation leaders, were Denmark, Finland, Germany, Japan, Sweden and Switzerland, but - with the expectation of the Danes - the innovators have been losing their lead, the report said.

The US and Japan are still above the EU average, but the gap has decreased for the fourth consecutive year. Europe is outperforming the US in new graduates in science in engineering and in the number of people employed manufacturing high-tech goods. European trading companies obtained more trademarks than either Japan or the US, gaining 101 per million people in 2005, compared to 34 for the US and only 12 for Japan.

However, Europe lagged in broadband penetration rates as well as in spending on research and development and investment in ICT. The US had higher venture capital investments and exported more high-tech goods than both Japan and Europe.

The indicators for the UK were all above-average, with only intellectual property below the overall European average. The UK was strongest in lifelong learning, but weakest in public funding for innovation.