Jan 9

Nat Torkington

Nat Torkington

What Is The Most Innovative Country in Europe?

Malta, if you believe this Infoworld article, which presents the results of Eurostat surveys into exports. Here's the relevant sentence from the article:

For instance Malta, a member of the European Union since May 2004, derives a greater proportion of its export revenue from high technology than any other European country, according to figures from Eurostat, the statistical service of the European Commission. High-tech goods and services accounted for 55.9 percent of Malta's exports in 2004.

Ireland: 29%, UK: 22%, France: 20%, Germany, 14.8%. Compare US: 27%, Japan 22.8%. I wouldn't rush to invest in the Maltese currency (Falcons, perhaps?)--percentages don't take into account the relative size of the economies in question. Malta may appear to have a lot of high-tech exports, but that's because it's a tiny island with scarce freshwater resources and not a huge agricultural export industry like mainland Europe. More interesting is that Italy has the most high-tech companies, though they are smaller on average--in other words, Italy has a lot of lifestyle businesses, small shops that service a few customers and aren't threatening IBM.

Also interesting is the funding of R&D: European research and development is typically less (proportional to GDP) than the US, and more funded by government. It's interesting that those countries that exceed US R&D spending are those associated with high-tech in Europe: Sweden, Finland, Denmark.

And finally: "while Denmark had broadband penetration of around 18 percent at the end of 2004, and Finland, Sweden and Norway hovered around 15 percent, according to IDC report published in June, the figure was nearer 10 percent for France and the U.K., and less still for Germany." I'm sensitive to broadband penetration: it's just 6.9% here in New Zealand, which is appalling and inexcusable. It looks like Nikolaj's onto a good thing: Denmark wins on R&D spending and broadband penetration. I have got to make it to a Reboot conference ...

tags:   | comments: 10   | Sphere It

Previous  |  Next

0 TrackBacks

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Comments: 10

  Oğuz Demirkapı [01.09.06 04:47 PM]

Did you check Turkey?

  PJ Cabrera [01.09.06 09:33 PM]

Hi Nat,

One nit-pick:

I guess blog entry titles are like the front page headlines in the old media days. They have to be catchy to "sell".

But what does percentage of tech exports have to do with innovation per se?

I mean, if Malta would export nothing but tech, that would give them 100 % tech exports. But what if only 10 % of those exports are new and original? Then it wouldn't be the most innovative, now would it?

Just like percentage of exports doesn't mean the size of the economies involved are huge (as per your warning above), percentage of tech exports has nothing to do with the actual amount of innovation produced.

Otherwise, a good read. The Maltese currency reference made me chuckle. :-)

PS - Didn't know you actually lived in NZ. I knew you had an accent, from listening to you present keynotes at OSCON 04 and 05, but couldn't place it. That's OK, I got one too. :-D

  Phil [01.09.06 09:37 PM]

Paul Graham's essay does a good job of explaining why Europe is generally weaker in technology entrepreneurship than the US: the high taxes are scaring all the hackers away!

  Justin Mason [01.09.06 10:55 PM]

hmm, I'm not convinced by that "high tax" argument; the tax I paid in Ireland was within a percentage point or two of what I pay in California now, and its corporate tax rates for US high-tech companies are legendarily generous.

Clearly, therefore, Ireland should be brimming with hacker entrepreneurs, right? ;)

  Jeroen Ruigrok van der Werven [01.10.06 12:39 AM]

Funny, the whole article doesn't even mention the Netherlands. The AMSIX here, next to DECIX in Germany and LINX in the UK, is one of the most important internet connectivity hubs for European internet connectivity. Furthermore, both cable and ADSL are very well spread in the Netherlands as well as a high penetration of IT on all levels of society and companies.

Dutch export of computer parts to Japan alone is € 1879991060 (Yen 260000000000, $ 2276809010).


Tax might be a problem here though

  J.T. Wenting [01.12.06 01:20 AM]

You can't compare broadband penetration between countries to determine how techie the people there are.
In Europe penetration is relatively high mainly because of our telephone billing systems where people pay for phone calls by the second. That includes dialup connections to ISPs, making broadband a relatively cheap alternative even for people who don't have a need for the additional capabilities 24/7 connectivity and higher bandwidth provides.
Many people I know switched from dialup to broadband for economic reasons only, a €20 a month DSL connection is cheaper than dialup if you're online for less than one hour per day.
Most of them never use the increased bandwidth and aren't actively using that connection for any longer than they previously used their dialup connection.
But in the statistics they're counted as high tech addicts with broadband connections ;)

That's one reason why broadband uptake in the US has been slow and seems to have hit a platform last year.
Most people who have a need for the increased bandwidth have it already and the rest have no economic incentive to sign up because their local calls aren't charged, therefore their dialup connection to their ISP doesn't cost them anything.
A broadband connection to them would be an expensive luxury they don't need, so they're not spending the money on it.

Maybe it's the same in NZ, I don't know how the phone system is paid for there.

  Paul Browne [01.13.06 03:50 AM]

As an Irishman, I'll happily accept number 2 position on this list on behalf of my country.

However this position is probably because Ireland , with 4 million people, is the top software exporter in the world ahead of the US , with nearly 300 million. We're good , but we're not that good. I won't mention the reason but a hint is: Where do US Software companies choose to declare their Sales / Profits?


  Nikolaj Nyholm [01.13.06 05:12 AM]

Paul Browne is absolutely right, and the only reason Malta is anywhere near the top of the list is because of its status as a tax-haven.

  Douglas Clifton [01.15.06 05:11 PM]

If you were to factor in contributions (from a historical perspective) to networking and the Internet, telephony, open-source, the Web...then Finland should really be at the top of the list. Consider:

  1. FUNET and
  2. Erwise
  3. Nokia
  4. Linux
  5. IRC
  6. ssh

Which is by no means an exhaustive list (and in no particular order). No, I'm not Finnish, but I am a fan of Alvar Aalto, saunas and I admire the Finns for their heroic defense against Stalin's attempt to annex them during WWII. You can have the winters.

  Bernardo V. Poli [01.17.06 04:35 AM]

Thank you for remembering my country (Italy). I am glad to see that Italy leads in something besides being last on all lists....

Post A Comment:

 (please be patient, comments may take awhile to post)

Type the characters you see in the picture above.