THE NORTH AND THE REST? THE INNOVATION GAP IN THE EUROPEAN UNION
, P. Dobrescu
National University of Political Studies and Public Administration (ROMANIA)
Premised on the fact that innovation is one of the pillars of the Europe 2020 Strategy, our paper looks at the most important research & development indicators in the European Union (e.g. research and development, the number of researchers, human resources in science and technology, employment in high technology sectors, patent applications). More specifically, building on Eurostat data and, also, on relevant reports drafted by EU institutional stakeholders, we analyze regional disparities between the top most innovation-oriented countries (i.e. Member-States from Northern Europe, such as Finland, Germany, Sweden, and Denmark) and the least developed regions in terms of research, development, and innovation (i.e. Eastern and Southern Europe). We draw on a simple – yet emblematic – situation: despite austerity and economic turmoil, in most Northern Member-States research & development indicators have constantly improved between 2007 and 2014, reaching or surpassing the 3% of the GDP target set by Europe 2020 Strategy, whereas the rest of the EU has been facing downward trends, with research and development expenses barely and rarely accounting for 1% of the GDP.
Furthermore, in order to identify possible causes of this (widening) innovation gap between Northern Europe and the rest of the EU regions, we comparatively assess the 2007-2013 vs. 2014-2020 EU multiannual financial frameworks, by focusing on two connected aspects: the EU allocations granted for competitiveness, research, and innovation, on the one hand, and the country access criteria to the EU funding available for research projects, on the other one.
Last but not least, we probe into some of the most evident global implications of the EU’s growing research and development disparities. With a R&D level which is below the OECD average, with the “Asian Tigers” (i.e. South Coreea and China) championing the innovation race, the EU is urged to identify fast and feasible solutions for not loosing its role as a global innovator. If these solutions are not properly identified and effectively implemented at the EU level, the “Old Continent” might as well transform into a globalization laggard.