In 2021, the EU spent €328 billion on research & development (R&D), an increase of 6% over the previous year (€310 billion). Data published by Eurostat, the EU’s statistical office, shows an increase of 43.9% over 2011. In terms of R&D intensity, or R&D expenditure per GDP, data show a decrease from 2.31% in 2020 to 2.27% in 2021. A rebound in GDP in 2021 following the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 may explain this fall.
Despite this, R&D intensity increased by 0.04 percentage points (pp) in 2021 compared with 2019 (2.23%), before the pandemic, while it increased by 0.25 pp compared with the previous 10 years. Innovation is driven by R&D, and R&D expenditure and intensity are key indicators of science and technology resources worldwide. Sweden recorded the highest R&D intensity in 2021 (3.35%), followed by Austria (3.22%) and Belgium (3.19%). Romania (0.48%), Malta (0.65%), Latvia (0.71%), Bulgaria (0.81%), Cyprus (0.89%) and Slovakia (0.95%) reported R&D expenditures below 1% of their GDP in 2021.
In 2021, two-thirds of EU Member States reported higher R&D intensity than in 2011. In contrast, the most significant decreases in R&D intensity occurred in Finland (-0.64 pp), Estonia (-0.51 pp), Ireland (-0.49 pp), and Luxembourg (-0.41 pp). R&D intensity increased the most in Belgium (+1.02 pp), Greece (+0.76 pp), Poland (+0.69 pp), Austria (+0.55 pp) and Croatia (+0.53 pp).
If we look at R&D expenditures by sector in the EU, the business enterprise sector continues to account for the largest share of total R&D expenditures in the EU (66.08 percent of total R&D expenditures in 2021). Following closely behind was the higher education sector with 22.58 percent, followed by the government sector with 11.89 percent, and the non-profit sector with 0.44 percent.