In 2017, the Member States of the European Union (EU) spent all together almost €320 billion on Research & Development (R&D). The R&D intensity, i.e. R&D expenditure as a percentage of GDP, stood at 2.07% in 2017, compared with 2.04% in 2016. Ten years earlier (2007), R&D intensity was 1.77%.
With respect to other major economies, R&D intensity in the EU was much lower than in South Korea (4.22% in 2015), Japan (3.28% in 2015) and the United States (2.76% in 2015), while it was at about the same level as in China (2.06% in 2015) and much higher than in Russia (1.1% in 2015) and Turkey (0.96%). In order to provide a stimulus to the EU’s competitiveness, an increase by 2020 of the R&D intensity to 3% in the EU is one of the five headline targets of the Europe 2020 strategy.
The business enterprise sector continues to be the main sector in which R&D expenditure was spent, accounting for 66% of total R&D disbursed in 2017, followed by the higher education sector (22%), the government sector (11%) and the private non-profit sector (1%).
This information on Research and Development in the EU is published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. R&D is a major driver of innovation, and R&D expenditure and intensity are two of the key indicators used to monitor resources devoted to science and technology worldwide.
Research and development intensity in the EU Member States
(R&D expenditure as % of GDP)
R&D intensity above 3% in Sweden, Austria, Denmark and Germany
In 2017, the highest R&D intensities were recorded in Sweden (3.33%) and Austria (3.16%), followed by Denmark (3.06%) and Germany (3.02%), all with R&D expenditure above 3% of GDP, whilst Finland (2.76%), Belgium (2.58%) and France (2.25% in 2016) registered R&D expenditure between 2.0% and 3.0% of GDP. At the opposite end of the scale, eight Member States recorded a R&D intensity below 1%: Romania (0.5%), Latvia (0.51%), Malta (0.55%), Cyprus (0.56%), Bulgaria (0.75%), Croatia (0.86%), Lithuania and Slovakia (both 0.88%).
Over the last ten years, R&D intensity rose in twenty-one Member States, with the highest increases in Austria (from 2.42% in 2007 to 3.16% in 2017, or +0.74 percentage points – pp) and Belgium (from 1.84% in 2007 to 2.58% in 2017, or +0.74 pp). Conversely, R&D intensity decreased in six Member States and most strongly in Finland (-0.59 pp) and Luxembourg (-0.33 pp). In Malta, R&D intensity remained at the level of 0.55%.
R&D intensity in the EU Member States, 2017
(R&D expenditure as % of GDP)
* 2016 data instead of 2017
Highest share of R&D spending in the business enterprise sector in Slovenia and Hungary
The main sector in which R&D was performed in 2017 was the business enterprise sector in all Member States, except Cyprus and Latvia (where the higher education sector was the dominant performing sector) and Lithuania (where the share of higher education sector was the same as of business enterprise sector).
The highest shares of R&D expenditure performed in the business enterprise sector were observed in Slovenia (75%), Hungary (73%), Ireland and Sweden (both 71%), Bulgaria and Austria (both 70%), Germany (69%), Belgium and the United Kingdom (both 68%).
Highest share of R&D spending in the government sector in Romania and the higher education sector in Latvia
For the government sector, the highest shares were registered in Romania (32%), Lithuania (28%), Luxembourg and Latvia (both 26%). The highest shares of R&D conducted within the higher education sector were recorded in Latvia (47%), Portugal (43%), Cyprus (42%) and Estonia (40%).
Issued by: Eurostat Press Office