The most competitive regions in Europe: capitals take it all
Different levels of competitiveness across European regions
Over the past 10 years, the Regional Competitiveness Index (RCI) has been measuring the major factors of competitiveness in all the regions across the European Union (EU). Comprising 11 different components, it captures concepts that are relevant to sustainable development, productivity and well-being. These components are classified into 3 groups: from the Basic group, including enabling aspects of competitiveness, to the Efficiency, including intermediate aspects, and Innovation, describing the most cutting-edge factors of competitiveness.
This unique Index provides within-country insights which national indices of competitiveness cannot capture. The latest edition of the Index, launched at the European Week of Regions and Cities on 7 October 2019, confirms a polycentric pattern with a wide-ranging variation characterising both countries and regions with a same country. Ten years after the global financial crisis and the north-west, south-east divide across the EU remains both clear and visible. The map is here below interactive, just point to one region to see the region's full name and its score. By choosing the Layers button at the top-right side of the map, you can switch from RCI scores to one of its 3 main components: Basic, Efficiency or Innovation. The different score classes shown by the map are shown in the Legend button, just below the Layers one.
Capital gaps: shrinking or diverging?
The RCI has always shown a remarkable gap between capital/metropolitan regions and the rest of the country. The most competitive region within each country is nearly always the capital region, as you can see from the chart here below showing the within-country variation for the 2019 edition (countries are ordered from the worst to the best according to their national score). There are 3 notable exceptions that have been consistent throughout all the Index's editions: Italy, where Lombardia is the best region; Germany, where Berlin has been always outperformed by either Frankfurt or Oberbayern and The Netherlands, where Utrecht has always been the most competitive region.
In Italy, Spain and Belgium, regional competitiveness levels span a wide range but are almost evenly spread across all the regions in each country, as shown by the height of the boxes in the chart which include 50 % of the regions’ scores in each country. Other countries also show a very high variability, although this is due to the significantly higher performance of the capital region with respect to other regions in the country: for example, in France, Portugal and most of the Eastern and Nordic countries where the regions neighbouring the capital are far less competitive.
The strength of capital regions reflects the higher capacity of metropolitan areas to function as agglomerating economies attracting human capital and businesses.
The question is: are these gaps between the capital and the rest of the country increasing or can we find an indication of catching-up?
Overall we observe stable gaps across the different RCI editions but in some countries chasing regions have been catching-up during the past years. For a country by country analysis, select the country of your interest in both bar-charts here below and compare the gap between the best performing region (always on top of the chart) and the following ones. For example, in France we observe a slight process of convergence of Alsace and Rhône-Alpes towards the capital region Île-de-France. In Hungary instead the trend indicates that Budapest (Közép Magyarország) is slowly diverging from the rest of the country, that struggles to keep pace.
From the interactive charts displayed in this Section, you can select the country of your interest and compare the RCI scores for all the regions in that country between the 2013 Index edition , that captures the socio-economic situation right after the 2008 crisis, and the most recent RCI 2019.
Monitoring the evolution of the capital/metropolitan gaps is particularly important for cohesion policy whose main mission is to help regions catch up and reduce geographical disparities.