18th December 2017

EC 2017 EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard

According to the European Commission, European Union firms have significantly increased their investments in research and development (R&D), rising above the world's average growth rate.

While the world's top 2500 companies in terms of investment into R&D increased this investment by 5.8% over 2016, companies with headquarters in the EU did so by 7%, with growth driven mainly by the ICT, health and automotive sectors.

The total investment of the top 2500 industrial players worldwide amounted to €741.6 billion in 2016, of which €192.5 billion was invested by the EU companies. An important number of these world's top industrial R&D players are based in the EU (567 out of 2500; with 822 in the US, 365 in Japan, 376 in China and 370 in the rest of the world).

Chinese companies increased their R&D investment by 18.8%, however their total R&D effort remains small compared to the size of the Chinese economy. ICT (+13.8%), health (+7.9%) and automotive (+6.7%) sectors have led the growth in R&D investments in the EU, the European Commission says.  

The 2500 top industrial players created more jobs, with a 1.7% increase in the number of employees, reaching 53 million in total in 2016. The 567 EU based companies employed 18.8 million persons, 2.2% more than the year before.

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R&D growth was driven by ICT services (+11.7%), followed by Health and ICT producers (6.9% and 6.8% respectively). These three sectors, together with Automobiles, account for 75% of the total R&D of the 2500 companies in the Scoreboard. R&D investment of companies in the Automobiles and Aerospace & Defence sectors grew at a lower pace (2.7% and 2.2%, respectively), whereas that of Chemicals companies decreased (-1.9%), the report shows.

In the EU, R&D growth was driven by the same sectors as worldwide, i.e. ICT producers (+14.4%), ICT services (+12.7%), Health industries (+7.9%) and Automobiles (+6.7%). However, companies from a few important sectors for the EU economy decreased their R&D, in particular Aerospace & Defence (-5.4%) and to a lesser extent Chemicals (-0.8%).

The 2017 Scoreboard includes an analysis of the 10-year economic and R&D performance of the top R&D investors showing that:

  • The EU share of world R&D remained constant at 26%, whereas at sector level, significant changes in EU's R&D shares are observed, namely an increase in the Automobiles sector (from 36% to 44%) and a decrease in Aerospace & Defence (from 48% to 42%).


  • Compared to their non-EU counterparts, EU companies outperform or perform comparably in size (of R&D and sales) and R&D intensity for Aerospace & defence, Automobiles and Pharmaceuticals. But in Biotechnology, Software and IT hardware the EU shows persistent weaknesses in most indicators such as size and R&D/firm or sales/firm (in particular compared to US companies). The EU/non-EU gap in these latter three sectors has widened over the last ten years.


  • In terms of productivity (net sales/employee ratio), EU and US companies showed similar overall performance (ca. 14% increase in both net sales and employment). However, at sector level, contrasting productivity changes are observed, e.g. in Automobiles, EU 17% vs. US -15%; in ICT sectors, EU -1% vs. US 31% and in low tech sectors, EU -10% vs. US -33%.

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Members of the American Chamber of Commerce in the Czech Republic