More than half of EU businesses innovate


Investing in research and innovation is investing in Europe’s future. Business innovation relates to the wide range of activities that enterprises undertake to implement innovation processes, develop new goods or services, and bring them to market. The Community Innovation Survey (CIS) reports about two kinds of innovation: product innovation and business process innovation. The latest CIS results show that more than half (53 %) of all enterprises in the EU reported some form of innovation activity in 2018-2020.

The highest proportion of innovative enterprises was reported in Greece (73 % of all enterprises), followed by Belgium (71 %), Germany and Finland (both 69 %) and Cyprus (66 %). In contrast, the lowest innovation activity was observed in Romania (11 %), Latvia (32 %), Hungary and Spain (both 33 %) and Poland (35 %).

Medium-sized and large companies are more innovative 

The distribution of enterprises by size in terms of product and/or business process innovation in 2018-2020 showed that large enterprises (250+ employees) were more likely to have introduced innovations (74 %) than medium-size (50-249 employees) companies (60 %).

Data shows that almost seven out of ten large companies introduced a business process innovation (69 %), and more than half introduced a product innovation (55 %). In the vast majority of companies designated as small (10-49 employees), only almost four out of ten were process innovators, and around one quarter were product innovators.

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Methodological notes:

  • The Community Innovation Survey (CIS) is the reference survey on innovation in enterprises. The EU Member States first introduced the survey in 1992 and since then it has become the regular biennial data collection. At present, the survey is carried out in the EU, EFTA and the EU Candidate Countries. The legal framework for CIS since 2012 is the Commission Regulation No 995/2012 that establishes the quality conditions and identifies the obligatory cross-coverage of economic sectors, size class of enterprises and innovation indicators.
  • The survey reference period was 2018–2020.
  • A ‘product innovation’ is a new or improved good or service that differs significantly from the firm’s previous goods or services and that has been introduced on the market. Changes of a solely aesthetic nature and the simple resale of new goods and services purchased from other enterprises are not considered as innovation.
  • A ‘business process innovation’ is a new or improved business process for one or more business functions. It differs significantly from the firm’s
  • previous business processes and has been implemented by the firm. The new definition of business process innovation merges the earlier concepts of process, marketing, and organisational innovation.