Central Europe still "catching-up" to Europes most innovative countries

Photo: European Commission

Two years ago, meeting in Britain, European Heads of State and government decided the key issues for Europe in facing the challenges of globalisation were Research and Innovation. They commissioned a report which said they, Europe's leaders, should take radical action, like creating innovation friendly markets, spending more on research and development and, in the words of the report - fostering a culture which celebrates innovation.

Photo: European Commission
The best guide to Central Europe's innovation performance comes from reports by the Maastricht Economic Research Institute in the Netherlands. They've developed an innovation index by which EU countries can be compared. Its results do not make good reading for Central Europe with most countries in the region falling below the EU average.

The "innovation leaders" are Sweden, Switzerland, Finland, Denmark and Germany. Not only do they lead the EU - they're world leaders as well. The next group is known as the "innovation followers" with scores above the EU average but well behind the leaders. They are the UK, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Austria and Ireland. Austria is the only Central European country above the EU average. Next comes the group known as the "catch-up countries".

They're below the EU innovation average - but with strong improvements in their performance. This group includes Slovenia, the Czech Republic, and Poland. And trailing the field in the innovation index comes a group which includes Slovakia and Hungary - along with Estonia, Italy, Spain and Malta. The Maastricht Institute says many new EU member states are catching up to the rest of Europe but the leaders, the Nordic States, are a long way out in front.