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Estonia moves up the European Innovation Scoreboard, surpassing top economies

Estonia rises to 'Strong Innovator' status in the 2024 European Innovation Scoreboard, surpassing the EU average and outperforming countries like France, Spain, and Italy.

Estonia is certainly no newcomer to the innovation space. In addition to its already-proven status as Europe’s best-performing unicorn factory, the country has now been recognised by one of the most important institutional rankings.

In the 2024 European Innovation Scoreboard (EIS), Estonia has officially levelled up from “Moderate Innovator” to “Strong Innovator.” Fellow small Nordic country Denmark is occupying the highest position.

The EIS is an annual comparative assessment of the research and innovation performance of EU member states and other European countries. It is composed of 32 performance indicators grouped into 12 innovation dimensions. Estonia has been climbing up for a long time, with a steady 3.3% average annual growth since 2017.

Its innovation performance surpasses the European Union average, including countries like France, Spain and Italy. Several factors have been crucial to this success, the report points out:

  • Human Resources: Estonia boasts a strong and skilled workforce, with a focus on education and lifelong learning. The country has seen a significant increase in the number of foreign doctorate students, indicating the attractiveness of its research system.
  • Attractive Research Systems: Estonia’s research environment is increasingly appealing to international collaborators, as evidenced by the rise in international scientific co-publications.
  • Digitalisation: Estonia continues to be a leader in digitalisation, with high broadband penetration and a growing number of individuals possessing advanced digital skills.
  • Use of Information Technologies: Estonian enterprises are actively investing in training to enhance the ICT skills of their personnel, ensuring they remain at the forefront of technological advancements.

Of course, more work is being done to move even higher. “Comparing Estonia’s innovation activities and performance with other European countries and comparing Europe with other continents certainly provides the necessary framework for shaping Estonia’s innovation policy,” said Sigrid Rajalo, head of the Innovation and Technology Department of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications.

To improve, investments — with a particular focus on FDI — are needed. “The scoreboard clearly shows that if we want to catch up with the innovation leaders, both public and private sector research and development investments must be increased to create new exportable products and services with higher added value,” added Rajalo.

According to EIS, the European Union maintains a strong position globally, though some competitors like South Korea, Canada, and the USA are ahead. Moreover, China has made rapid progress and is quickly closing the gap with the EU.

Read the full report here.

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