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The EU Innovation ranking is flawed



Charles Edquist and Jon Mikel Zabala-Iturriagagoitia. (Photo: Universidad Autónoma de Madrid)

On June 22, the 2018 edition of the European Innovation Scoreboard (EIS) was published by the European Commission. The summary innovation index included in the EIS misleads politicians, policy-makers, researchers and the general public. This is argued in a contribution by Charles Edquist and Jon Mikel Zabala Iturriagagoitia in the website Science Business published on June 22, 2018. On June 26, the same article was also published in the Science Business Newsletter. That very short piece is based on a recent scientific article published in Research Evaluation, where the methodological and statistical details are provided.

Large resources are invested in producing and communicating the EIS annual reports – the 2017 edition was available in 23 languages. The 2018 edition is launched in a large event on June 25, 2018 in the Breydel auditorium in Brussels. The results are widely diffused in most EU member states.

A major constituent of the EIS is the Summary Innovation Index (SII). It claims to provide a ”comparative assessment” and ranking of “innovation performance” in the EU member states. However, it does not, because it is methodologically inferior.

The underlying problem is that the SII interpretation of “innovation performance” does not relate outputs to inputs, which has to be done in any meaningful measure of “performance”, “productivity” or “efficiency”. Instead the SII mixes inputs and outputs into a simple arithmetic average, which is meaningless. This is remarkable. And it means that the SII cannot be used for innovation policy purposes, which is an explicit objective of the EIS.

For many years, including in the 2018 edition, Sweden has, by the SII, been ranked number 1 in the EU with regard to innovation performance. However in the SII simple average measure this reflects that, in the Swedish innovation system, there is a lot of investment in innovation inputs, but these are not transformed into innovation outputs. This is not high performance. Such inefficiencies should be the point of departure for the design of innovation policy in Sweden – not the widespread SII-based misbelief that Sweden is number 1 in terms of innovation performance in the EU.