The Innovation Scoreboard is an annual assessment of innovation performance in the individual Member States of the European Union. It was an explicit request of the European Council of Ministers meeting in Lisbon in March 2000.
To measure innovation performance a set of "indicators" are used, such as number of science graduates, or the number of patents filed. As the indicators are measured in the same way across all the Member States, the scoreboard is a "benchmarking" tool - that is it can be used to compare one country against another.
The European Innovation Scoreboards include historical as well as the latest available data so that a time series is available. It thus shows not only the actual position, but also the trends over a period of time.
The data is public so you can take it and use it in presentations and publications. The preparations for the scoreboard have already inspired some national benchmarking exercises using similar indicators.
The Scoreboard is intended as a mirror that can be held up to EU Member States so that they can clearly see themselves and their fellow States in the same perspective. For comparison, the scoreboard includes equivalent figures from the US and Japan, and shows the EU average. Member States can therefore compare themselves with their neighbours, with the best and the worst, or with the EU average.
The scoreboard concentrates on figures, and avoids comment. Its purpose is to enable Member States to see for themselves their strengths and weaknesses and thus help them in formulating policies and programmes. High scoring Member States may increasingly become sources of good practice as users of the scoreboard look to adopt what has worked elsewhere. It is thus a starting point for discussion and action; a factual foundation to future measures. The richness of detail enables policy makers and opinion formers to use it as a tool in order to identify priorities and to articulate strategies and then to measure the success of those strategies.
The Scoreboard contains a lot of detail and so can be analysed in many ways in order to reveal the underlying differences. The objective is to provide indicators for key areas of improvement and identify Member States who are succeeding. Many nations will have economic and cultural reasons for high or low scores in individual indicators, and some may criticise exactly what is measured. However, taking the factors overall, they do show in aggregate the innovative capacity of a country and in some cases they map onto other data, independently produced, which gives deeper insight into why there are such worrying disparities.
The Scoreboard is a part of the wider Innovation Trend Chart initiative . The Trend Chart provides a comprehensive and detailed overview of innovation-related initiatives at Member State level in order to put a resource at the disposal of those who are interested in what is happening in innovation around Europe - and more importantly, what is working.
Historical and economic studies throughout the world have shown that the ability to harness the power of science and technology creates a powerful engine for wealth creation and social improvement.
As the pace of technological change increases, nations that have a strong innovative capacity are able to very quickly gain economic advantages and better living conditions for their citizens. Those that are lacking in innovative capacity are left behind. Thus any disparity between Member States will show up sooner or later as a widening gap in economic performance, and an inequality of living standards, which is contrary to the Community spirit.
The Scoreboard takes objective quantitative data and brings it together into one picture. While the numbers individually have little meaning as quantities in themselves, the comparative figures are where the story really lies. They show gaps – sometimes worryingly large gaps – between the innovative abilities of Member States.
Comparisons with the US and Japan serve to underline the fact that Europe has to exist in a globally competitive environment and so has to compare itself collectively, as one of the world’s largest trading blocs, with its nearest international competitors.
The answer to that question depends on who you are and where you live.
For example, if you are an educationalist and live in a poor performing country you might look at the indices for your country and see that education was exceptionally low. This might give you a solid basis to argue, on grounds of comparison, for improvements in your education system.
If you are an industrialist you may be interested to know that the overall ranking of Member States maps remarkably well to independent research on how company cultures tend to be different in those Member States. This mapping indicates that business cultures may be the main factor that influences the achievement of economic success from innovation.
Even as a citizen and taxpayer you may find disturbing trends that reveal an increasing divergence between your country and the rest of Europe. If others are playing ‘catch up’ and you are not, then it is perhaps time to ask why.