The 8th Cohesion Report presents the main changes in territorial disparities in the EU over the past decade and how EU and national policies have affected those disparities. The full report is available
On this page, you can explore a selection of interactive maps and figures on regional innovation performance.

There are large disparities in innovation between EU regions, with capital regions performing best

Innovation is the key determinant of long-term regional economic growth. The figure to the right shows the innovation performance in NUTS 2 regions, relative to the EU average. The performance is measured by a composite index calculated by the regional innovation scoreboard. The vertical bars indicate per Member State the range of regional performances.  
There are substantial disparities in the national average innovation performance between EU Member States. Overall, innovation performances in north-western EU countries tend to be above the EU average, whereas those in southern and eastern EU countries tend to be below average. However, there is considerable variation between regions within Member States, in particular in larger countries such as Germany, France and Spain. Even highly developed Member States such as the Netherlands, Germany and France have more than one region with a performance below the EU average. Innovation tends to be higher in more urbanized regions, in particular in capital regions. In nearly all Member States, innovation performance is highest in the capital region. Germany, Italy and Spain are exceptions, although even in those countries the capital regions perform well above the national average.

- Hover your mouse pointer over the figure to see the name and values of the capital and other regions.

The innovation divide between less and more developed regions is growing

The Regional Innovation Scoreboard classifies each region, based on their innovation score, into one of four categories, which are, in order of increasing innovation: emerging innovator, moderate innovator, strong innovator and leader innovator. This graph shows the share of the population living in each of these categories of regions. The shares are shown separately for the group of less developed, transition and more developed regions, and for the years 2016 and 2021 in order to trace developments over time.
The graph shows that there is a close relationship between the level of development of regions and the shares of the different innovation classes. In 2016 about 30% of the population of less developed regions lived in an ‘emerging innovator’ region, and none in a ‘strong’ or a ‘leader innovator’ region. In 2021, the share of emerging innovators had become more than twice as high. This indicates that a large number of less developed regions that used to be moderate innovators have become ‘emerging innovators’. Accordingly, during the last five years, the less developed regions have fallen further behind in terms of innovation, rather than catching up with the other regions. At the other end of the spectrum, almost all of the ‘leader innovators’ (the most innovative category) and the majority of ‘strong innovators’ are in the more developed regional group. Moreover, between 2016 and 2021, the share of the population living in a ‘strong’ or ‘leader innovator’ region had increased from 70% to 84%. The transition regions saw a decline in innovativeness between 2016 and 2021. The share of the population living in a ‘strong’ or ‘leader innovator’ region had declined from 51% to 27%. In general, these results indicate an innovation divide between less and more developed regions that has been growing in recent years.
- Hover your mouse pointer over the figure to see the share of the population living in regions in a specific innovation class.

R&D expenditure is concentrated in urban and more developed regions

A widely used indicator to measure the input innovation is the expenditure on R&D relative to GDP. Expenditure on R&D in the EU amounted to 2.2% of GDP in 2019. Despite an overall increase, in most Member States the expenditure rates remain well below those in other highly developed economies, especially Japan or the US.
This map shows the R&D expenditure ratio for NUTS 2 regions in 2019. R&D expenditure in the EU is highest in the north-western EU, where it exceeds 1.0 % in nearly all regions. It is lowest in the regions in the eastern and southern EU, where in the majority of regions it remains below 1.0 %. In general, regions with the highest R&D expenditure tend to be the most developed and often include capital cities.
- Hover your mouse pointer over the figure to see the name and values of the regions.

Highly skilled workers live mainly in capital regions

A well-educated work force is key to economic development and prosperity. University education boosts upward social mobility and improves employment prospects. The figure to the left shows the share of the working-age population (age 25-64) that have a tertiary education, in EU Member States and NUTS 2 regions. The vertical bars indicate the range of regional performances per Member State.
The figure shows that the share of those aged 25-64 with tertiary education varies markedly across Member States and regions. Capital regions tend to have a more highly educated population than other regions. Demand for highly skilled labour in these areas attracts those with tertiary education and, at the same time, and firms are also more likely to find the skills they need in such areas. In most of the capital regions the tertiary education share exceeds the EU average. This also holds for the less developed Member States, where the gap with other regions tends to be particularly high.
- Hover your mouse pointer over the figure to see the name and values of the capital and other regions.

More information

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Authors: Lewis DIJKSTRA / Martijn BRONS / Laura de DOMINICIS
Text: April 2022