While European countries have gained ground in innovation performance worldwide, they are still lagging behind key economic rivals Japan and the United States in education, research and high-technology, the European Commission said February 22. The so-called “innovation gap” between the US and the EU has decreased for the fourth year running, a new commission study showed.

However, Europe was still outplayed by economic rivals US and Japan with investment in information and communication technologies and spending on research and development.

European businesses currently pump 1.2 percent of Gross Domestic Product into research and development, compared to 1.9 percent of GDP in the US and 2.4 percent of GDP in Japan. Information and communication technology expenditure last year amounted to 6.7 percent of GDP in the US, 7.6 percent in Japan and 6.4 percent in Europe.

The study also said that Europe was staying behind its competitors in the number of people with university degrees, in broadband access rates and with exports of high-tech products.

However, the performance of individual European countries differs widely with the Nordic states, Switzerland and Germany continuing to be among the world’s innovation leaders.

The report also showed that Europe is ahead the US and Japan with new graduates in science and engineering, with employment in companies that produce medium and high-tech goods and with the number of new trademarks obtained.

The so-called “European Innovation Scoreboard” compares the innovation performance of the EU’s 27 member states as well as for Croatia, Turkey, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, the US and Japan.