The Netherlands loses first place in the European innovation ladder

Nederland raakt toppositie op Europese innovatieladder kwijt

Belgium was awarded the “Leader” title for the first time in the European Innovation Scoreboard (EIS). This means that our neighboring country is ahead of us on the innovation ladder, and the Netherlands is nothing but a “strong innovator”.

The European Innovation Scoreboard provides a comparative analysis of innovation performance in EU countries, other European countries and regional neighbours. It assesses the relative strengths and weaknesses of national innovation systems and helps countries identify areas that need to be addressed. The 2021 European Innovation Scoreboard was released on June 21, 2021.

The 2021 edition shows that innovation performance in Europe continues to improve across the European Union. Innovation performance has increased 12.5 percent on average since 2014.

In the global scene, the European Union outperforms rivals such as China, Brazil, South Africa, Russia and India, while South Korea, Canada, Australia, the United States and Japan have a performance advantage over the European Union.

Within the European Union, there is continuous convergence, with poorer performing countries growing faster than better performing countries, bridging the innovation gap between them.

Five EU countries improved their performance by 25 percentage points or more, namely Cyprus, Estonia, Greece, Italy and Lithuania. Sweden remains the EU innovation leader, followed by Finland, Denmark and Belgium, all with innovation performance well above the EU average.


The recent increase in Belgian innovation performance is due to strong performance gains in many indicators using data from innovation surveys, but also in digital skills, venture capital and resource productivity. Belgium scored above average in indicators related to climate change.

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Belgium’s strength lies in its attractive search systems, use of information technologies and links. The top three indicators include: foreign doctoral students, innovative SMEs that collaborate with others, and companies that provide ICT training.


The Netherlands’ performance relative to the EU has declined over time, mainly due to the relatively strong decline in 2021 due to lower performance in sales of innovative products, fewer product innovators, less hiring of innovative firms, and lower PCT patent applications, And less government support for research and institutional development. The Netherlands scores above average in climate-related indicators.

The strengths of the Netherlands lie in its attractive search systems, links and use of information technologies. The top three indicators include foreign doctoral students, joint public-private publications, and international joint scholarly publications.

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