A taxonomy of European innovation clubs

Ariel L. Wirkierman, Tommaso Ciarli & Maria Savona


The paper provides a novel, empirically grounded map of innovation 'clubs' in the EU, based on a unique analysis of micro-aggregated, country-level data. Using exploratory factor analysis we articulate innovation variables in a taxonomy of four 'latent' innovation theories: Network-Innovation-System, Kaldorian, New-Growth-Theory, and Schumpeterian. We then characterise clusters of countries ('clubs'), based on their performance against this taxonomy, and design a new map of EU innovation clubs. We identify an articulated map of EU innovation hierarchy beyond the rather well-known 'core-periphery' structure, and interpret how some of the peripheries are functional to the 'consolidated core' of innovative countries, raising an issue of long-term sustainability of such hierarchies. We also find that even the most innovative clusters show concerning weaknesses. The strongest cluster in terms of its innovation system does not seem to exploit its full potential and lags behind with respect to radical product innovations. Instead, the leading cluster in terms of radical product innovations is strongly dependent on external innovative activity, is focused on scale-intensive sectors, and has a fairly weak innovation system. The periphery of small countries that show a healthy network structure, do so because they mainly include supplier-dominated firms, reliant on innovation inputs from the core. We offer some reactions on innovation policy within a broader view of EU cohesion.

JEL classiffication codes: O30, O52, C38

Keywords: Innovation theories, National Innovation System, Exploratory Factor Analysis, European cohesion policy

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