The release of the 2021 European Innovation Scoreboard has shown that Scandinavian countries are by far the most innovative, with Sweden, Finland and Denmark topping the rankings this year. These nations were classified ‘innovation leaders’, with Belgium the only other EU nation to receive this ranking which is granted to those with an Innovation Index (II) of more than 125, which is in turn 125% of the EU average.
In 2021 strong innovators include Estonia, France and Germany, whilst the third category of countries that are judged to be moderate innovators includes Cyprus, Italy and Spain. Moderate innovators are judged to have innovation scores between 70% and 100% the EU average, whilst those below 70% are categorised as emerging innovators. This final group contains exclusively nations that have joined the EU since 2004, with Poland, Slovakia and Hungary all featuring.
The EU’s performance was found to have improved by 12.5% points since 2014, with improvements made in all member states. The most notable improvements were in Estonia (35.4%), Cyprus (33%) and Lithuania (30.9%), with these countries all seeing an increase in their innovation level. Lower performance countries typically improve more than those that are more innovative, although Estonia’s results are incredible given that since just 2020 it has improved by more than 20%. Estonia is particularly highly ranked in terms of innovators and linkages, explaining this increase in RII.
Sweden’s RII of almost 160 comes from its continent leading performance in human resources and employment impacts, whilst also being ranked above the EU average in every other category except environmental sustainability. Interestingly, this category is the only one where innovation leaders rank behind strong innovators, suggesting potential room for improvement here.
On a continental level, the EU average ranks ahead of neighbouring nations such as Turkey and Ukraine, with only Switzerland, Iceland and the UK scoring higher. In fact, Switzerland’s best performance on seven indicators means it outscores even the EU’s most innovative nation, Sweden.
Globally, the EU average of 113 is dwarfed by Korea (136), Canada (127) and Australia (125), with the US also scoring higher with an II of 120. It must be noted, however, that the US does not rank as an innovation leader and is thus outscored by many EU nations including Estonia and Denmark.
The BRICS nations rank below the EU average ranging from 26 (India) to 84 (China). In these countries performance has actually decreased compared to the EU27, with South Africa for example particularly struggling due to a decline in the development of environmentally-friendly technologies.
One important thing to take into account is that despite a country having a high or low innovation score, this can vary hugely by region. Most nations’ regions span two innovation levels, whilst some are even more extreme, with the Regional Innovation Scoreboard 2021 showing that some countries such as Spain and Norway have regions spread across three innovation levels; in France for example, the range of the Regional Innovation Index (RII) is from 47.8-130.
Unsurprisingly, in 20 of the 26 European nations analysed, the region in which the capital city is located is the highest rank. In less developed EU nations this trend is particularly obvious, with both Serbia and Slovakia having their capitals an entire level above other regions in the country. The Regional Development Fund aims to transfer money from richer (and thus more innovative) regions to poorer (and less innovative) regions, meaning this imbalance is likely to be addressed in the coming years.
The readdressing of these imbalances will hopefully be reflected in the next Innovation Scoreboard, which will be released later this year.
The International Association of Science Parks and Areas of Innovation (IASP) has released its latest Global Survey, a comprehensive report on the state of play and current trends in our industry. The data was gathered over the course of 2021 with 113 STPs from almost 50 countries responding, with the final publication including more than 100 charts and tables that give insight into the STP industry.
The urban nature of STPs are highlighted, with more than 84% of respondents finding themselves located in cities of various sizes. This highlights the relevance of links to local governments, businesses and civil society, as well as the importance of an urban location in attracting knowledge workers to the STP. This is particularly reinforced by the fact that of the minority of respondents not located in a city, 63.2% are based near a large city.
The increasing role of ‘the private’ was also shown in this report, with 49.6% of respondents having either private or mixed ownership. This is particularly common in Africa and North America where mixed ownership is the predominant model, and marks a change from the 2018 publication in which almost 60% of respondents reported to be publically owned.
The report also analyses in depth the main technology sectors in STPs, with again, ICT being the most common sector. Present in 82.3% of STPs it shows the importance of the computing sector to our industry, something further reinforced by the fact that the next most common responses were the computer science and software engineering sectors.
Exclusive for this publication is a bumper chapter on the effects of COVID-19 on the industry. It explores the ways in which STPs adapted, the economic impact of the pandemic, support residents received and the ways in which management teams adjusted. Respondents were also asked about their future expectations, with a resounding 95.6% anticipating stability or growth for the future, something which highlights the strength and adaptability of the industry.
The Global Survey also looks at STP infrastructure, budgets, funding, specialisation, services, companies, and much more. IASP full members can read the publication for free, whilst others can purchase it here.
WAINOVA member the Basque Country Technology Park Network (RPTE) – made up of Alava Technology Park, Bizkaia Science and Technology Park and Gipuzkoa Science and Technology Park – is currently home to impressive technological advancements in the space sector. Its Tekniker Technology Centre is developing a system that can exploit Mars’ unique climatic conditions to produce methane, which can then in turn be used as rocket fuel.
It is expected that this innovative system would allow exploration missions to produce their own supplies for lengthy stays, thus reducing the amount of materials that would need to be transported there. This in turn will reduce the costs and environmental impact associated with getting to Mars, and allow crews to operate more independently.
The technology centre is working closely with the University of Cantabria as part of this project, and will collaborate together on a number of experiments to see which materials work best before finalising a design for a prototype. Rigorous testing will then be done before it is potentially sent to Mars, where the atmosphere is more than 95% carbon dioxide.
Many barriers remain before we see this innovative technology on the red planet, but its outcomes are extremely exciting. Not only would they have an impact on Mars but on life on Earth too, as this system could recycle carbon dioxide thus reducing emissions and climate change. Perhaps then, a solution to the climate crisis comes from the Basque Country, via Mars.
To read more about this project click here.
64% of people surveyed by Ipsos claim to have a good understanding of what AI is, but only half trust companies in the AI sector as much as other companies. These figures depend massively on the country, with just 41% of Japanese respondents claiming to have a good understanding of AI compared to almost 78% in South Africa.
Much of this trust correlates with familiarity with AI. With 60% of respondents expecting AI products and services to profoundly change their day-to-day lives over the next five years, companies in this sector can be confident that this expansion will lead to a higher number of people who trust AI companies.
The trust in AI companies also has a strong correlation with the economic development of a country. Nations with emerging economies such as China, Saudia Arabia and India have a large majority that trusts businesses that use AI (76%, 73% and 68% respectively), whilst in the Global North only around 1 in 3 people do. Respondents from Canada, France, the USA, the UK and Australia all polled between 34% and 36%.
These trends continue when asked if AI-powered product make lives easier and have more benefits than drawbacks. What is clear, however, is the hugely positive future for AI companies. The regions and nations which trust and value this technology the most are those where populations and economies are growing rapidly, meaning huge markets for their products.
To read the full Ipsos survey click here.