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The innovative capacity of the Netherlands

fact sheet
18 October 2022

Photo: Hans van Rhoon/Hollandse Hoogte

What is the innovative capacity of the Netherlands in comparison to other (European) countries? In this fact sheet we look at the innovative capacity of the Netherlands (the potential to create innovations) on the basis of three reports.

In short

  • The proportion of innovative companies in Dutch industry is close to the EU-27 average.
  • The Netherlands was in 10th position according to the 2019 edition of the Global Competetiveness Index of the World Economic Forum.
  • In 2022 the Netherlands belongs to the group of innovation leaders. The Netherlands scores above the EU-27 average on most aspects.

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 50%, is equal to the EU-27 average. 

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 2019 edition. The regular ranking has been postponed in 2020 due to the special corona measures of countries. In the special 2020 edition, the World Economic Forum shows how recovery from the corona crisis can lead to productive, sustainable and inclusive economic systems.

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 strong innovators after which they became an innovation leader in 2015. In 2021 the Netherlands belonged to the group of strong innovators and in 2022 they belong to the group of innovation leaders again. The Netherlands scores above the EU-27 average on most aspects.