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fact sheet
05 August 2020

The innovative capacity of the Netherlands

The factsheet looks at the innovative capacity of the Netherlands (the potential to create innovations) from three perspectives.

Innovation is a broad concept that can be put into practice in different ways. First of all, we can distinguish between technological and non-technological innovation. Technological innovation applies to both products and processes. Non-technological innovation applies to organisation and marketing. In essence, innovative capacity is the degree to which organisations in the Netherlands are capable of making such advances.

This factsheet measures the Netherlands’ innovative capacity in three ways:

  1. Eurostat’s Community Innovation Survey
  2. The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index
  3. The European Commission’s European Innovation Scoreboard

Number of innovative companies

Eurostat’s Community Innovation Survey (CIS) asks companies what kind of innovation activities they perform. The figure below shows that the proportion of innovative companies in Dutch industry, at 60%, is higher than the EU-15 average of 53%. Interestingly, Dutch companies are relatively more likely to be involved in technological innovation, i.e. product and/or process innovation. 

Innovative capacity according to the Global Competitiveness Index

Every year the World Economic Forum publishes its Global Competitiveness Index, which scores countries’ competiveness. Innovation is one of the twelve ‘pillars’ on which the index is based. In 2018 the GCI 4.0 was introduced. In the preceding years the Nederlands slowly entered the top ten for the innovation pillar. The table below shows the position of the Netherlands for this pillar since the introduction of the GCI 4.0. The Netherlands was in 10th position in the last edition (2019).

2019 2018 2017
Germany 1 1 1
United States 2 2 2
Switzerland 3 3 3
Taiwan. China 4 4 4
Sweden 5 5 6
Korea. Rep. 6 8 10
Japan 7 6 7
United Kingdom 8 7 5
France 9 11 11
Netherlands 10 9 8
Denmark 11 12 14
Finland 12 10 9
Singapore 13 14 13
Austria 14 15 15
Israel 15 16 17
Canada 16 13 12
Belgium 17 17 16
Australia 18 18 19
Luxembourg 19 19 18
Norway 20 20 20

Innovative capacity according to the European Innovation Scoreboard

The European Commission has developed a scoreboard for the innovation performance of European countries. The European Innovation Scoreboard (EIS; called the Innovation Union Scoreboard in the period 2011-2015) shows the positions of the EU countries, including the Netherlands, on a summary indicator of the innovation performance of countries. The countries are divided into four groups: leading innovators, strong innovators, moderate innovators and modest innovators. Till 2015 the Netherlands belonged to a group of innovation followers, along with a number of other West European countries, but is an innovation leader since 2015. The Netherlands scores above the EU-27 average on most aspects. 

Notes on innovation (from Statistics Netherlands: ICT, Knowledge and the Economy)

The Community Innovation Survey distinguishes between several types of innovation:

  1. Product innovation: the company has introduced one or more new or considerably improved products. They may be goods or services that are new to the market, or simply new to the company.
  2. Process innovation: the company has started using one or more new or considerably improved processes or methods. These new processes and methods may concern the production of goods or services; input (goods or services) logistics (delivery or distribution); activities in support of processes such as maintenance systems or purchasing, accounting or calculation methods. The processes or methods may be new to the market, or simply new to the company.
  3. Organisational innovation: the company has introduced one or more of the following innovations: new company procedures; new methods of organising professional responsibilities and taking decisions; new methods of organising external relations with other companies or institutions.
  4. Marketing innovation: the company has introduced innovations in the aesthetic design or packaging of products; the way it uses new media to promote its products; the way it positions products in the market or uses new sales channels; or the way in which it prices its products.

Relevant documents

Photo: Hans van Rhoon/Hollandse Hoogte