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Research and innovation
News article18 December 2019Directorate-General for Research and Innovation3 min read

2019 Industrial Research and Development Scoreboard: EU companies increase investment amidst stiff global competition

Companies in the European Union have increased their investment in research and development (R&D) for the ninth consecutive year, but below the global growth rate. In 2018, they invested 4.7% more in R&D. This growth is driven by the automobile, health and ICT sectors.

In the face of an ever-increasing global technological race, the top 2500 industrial players worldwide increased their R&D investment by 8.9% last year. EU companies account for 17 of the top 50 of corporate R&D investors. The growth in investment by EU-based companies is, however, outpaced by their US and Chinese counterparts: the former increased their R&D investment last year by 10.3%, the latter by 26.7%.

These are some of the main findings of the 2019 Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard, published by the European Commission today. It provides an annual in-depth analysis of the most recent investment trends of the worlds’ leading industrial R&D players contributing to understanding the positioning of the EU companies in the global landscape.

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Education, Culture and Youth, said:

Companies based in the EU keep increasing their R&D investments, but much more is needed in the global race for technological leadership in deep-tech and sustainability. We will launch a fully-fledged European Innovation Council to invest in high-risk companies creating new markets. If we want Europe to drive the transition to a climate-neutral economy, we need to redouble our efforts.

In the ranking of 2500 worldwide largest R&D investors, the US comes first with 769 companies (€313 billion), followed by 551 EU based companies (€208 billion) and China 507 companies (€96 billion). The 551 EU based companies employed more than 19.4 million people, an increase of 3.9% over the previous year.

EU based automotive companies have contributed most to R&D growth in the EU and prepare for the future with a broad patent portfolio to reduce vehicle emissions (behind Japan) and for autonomous vehicles. On the other hand the EU has been overtaken in the ICT sector by China’s large R&D investments, and the US strengthened its leadership through high R&D growth in ICT and health industries.

Global R&D was driven by the US ICT service sector (17.1%) followed by ICT producers (9.1%) and the health sector (9.3%). EU R&D growth sectors comprises automobiles (6.4%), ICT producers (5.5%) and health (3.8%). EU companies are competing with the US in aerospace and defence and in the chemicals sector where Japan takes the lead.

The Scoreboard includes a separate analysis of patents filed worldwide for 2012-2015. The 2500 Scoreboard companies hold 53% of all the green tech patents of 2012-2015. The biggest share of these patents (38% during 2012-2015) is in transport. The top 25 companies in green tech patenting include five EU based companies; while nine Japanese companies are overall the most active.

Finally, the report shows that growth in R&D investment of the 2500 top industrial players is accompanied by a raise in most financial indicators. Net sales (8.4%) and profits (9.1%) continued the positive trend of the previous year increasing at a similar rate to R&D investment. Net sales of the 551 companies based in the EU reached €6 trillion, an increase of 4.7% on the previous year.


The EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard is published annually since 2004 by the European Commission (Directorate-General for Research and Innovation and the Joint Research Centre). The 2019 edition of the Scoreboard comprises the 2500 companies investing the largest sums in R&D in the world in 2018/19. The Scoreboard data, taken from companies’ latest published accounts, comprise key indicators on the 2500 parent companies and more than 700 thousand subsidiaries that enable assessing companies' economic and innovation performance. The 2500 companies, based in 44 countries, each invested at least €30 million in R&D for a total of €823 billion. This is equivalent to approximately 90% of the world’s business-funded R&D. The Scoreboard includes a separate listing of the top 1000 EU companies with R&D investment over €8 million, and the 2019 edition includes analysis on patenting in green technologies and the automotive sector.

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Publication date
18 December 2019
Directorate-General for Research and Innovation