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Every year since 2001, the European Innovation Scoreboard has been published, showcasing EU countries’ research and innovation performance. The EIS 2020 edition was released in June—for the first time without the UK since its withdrawal from the EU.
The EIS distinguishes between four main types of activities in each country:
- Framework conditions (including human resources, attractive research systems, and innovation-friendly environments);
- Investments (public and private investment in research and innovation);
- Innovation activities (capturing innovation efforts at a company level, covering innovators, linkages, and intellectual assets); and
- Impacts (how innovation translates into benefits for the economy as a whole).
These measures are then averaged in the Summary Innovation Index, classifying the countries into four innovation performance groups:
- Innovation Leaders: with Sweden in the top position, followed by Finland, Denmark, and the Netherlands;
- Strong Innovators: Austria, Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, and Portugal;
- Moderate Innovators: Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain; and
- Modest Innovators: where the innovation performance of Bulgaria and Romania is below 50% of the EU average.
The innovation performance of the EU has increased by 8.9% since 2012, with the biggest increases seen in Lithuania, Malta, Latvia, Portugal and Greece.
The UK’s withdrawal from the EU had a small impact on the average innovation performance, but the relative performance of EU countries in relation to the EU’s global performance remains unaffected. In fact, the EU surpassed the US for the second time in 2020.
Sweden’s leading position is in part due to the fact that there are good opportunities for research and innovation through, for example, a high willingness to cooperate between small and medium-sized enterprises, well-developed infrastructure in data and IT, and a high level of education.
Sweden is also above the EU average in terms of gross domestic product per capita and companies that invest in research and development (R&D).
“Sweden is also above the EU average in terms of gross domestic product per capita and companies that invest in research and development.”
Peter Strömbäck, director general of the Swedish Patent and Registration Office, has commented: “Global competition is constantly increasing, not least from Asia. It is more important than ever to increase knowledge and intangible assets such as unique expertise, technology and brands, and how best to utilise and protect them.”
It may therefore be a bit contradictory to see that, according to the EIS 2020, Sweden is not as strong as other countries when it comes to launching new innovative products, investments in startup companies and private investments in research and development, despite placing first overall.
The question is whether and how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect Sweden as the innovation leader. So far, we can see that staff—including inventors—in the Swedish industry still mainly working from home, with only online communication with colleagues and attorneys, has both negative and positive effects.
The negative part for industry is that factories have had to close down and you cannot meet physically to discuss new ideas. The positive effects are that all meetings are held online, opening up new possibilities to involve staff independently wherever you live in the country.
Online work can be more productive than traditional face-to-face meetings. In particular, the Swedish software and pharmaceutical industries are very active, inventing new solutions for global problems.
It is important to have in mind that IP, especially patents, are important in order to help individual inventors, companies and whole countries to recover from a pandemic, as patent protection provides the economic base from which to re-build our world.
This is noted in the upcoming workshop “Patents as Capital”, the second workshop of the European Research Council-funded project Patents as Scientific Information, 1895–2020, in collaboration with the International Society for the History and Theory of Intellectual Property.
It was scheduled for September 2020 in the Nobel Museum in Stockholm, Sweden but has been postponed until next year.
Maria Zamkova is chief executive officer of Fenix Legal and is a patent and registered trademark and design attorney. She can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
EIS, innovation, research and development, SMEs, Swedish Patent and Registration Office, gross domestic product, COVID-19, pandemic, inventors