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06.1

Mobilising Europe’s R&D Talent Pool

If talent represents the foundations of the European tech ecosystem, its academic institutions are the bedrock. Europe is home to 14 of the Top 50 computer science universities in the world, including 5 of the Top 10. Europe is, in short, a factory for producing world-class computer science talent.

Europe's universities among global top 50 in computer science and their global rank

Source:

Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2018

Note:
Compiled by the Times Higher Education Supplement and gathered by CERN.

Looking beyond just computer science, Europe is home to 31 of the world's top 100 universities in engineering and technology. These 31 universities are distributed across 11 different countries and 29 different cities and reflect the fact that European STEM talent is inherently spread across the region driven by the strong academic institutions that exist in all corners of the region. There are, in short, clusters of world-class talent potential in every corner of Europe.

Europe's universities among global top 100 in engineering and technology and their global rank

Source:

Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2018

Note:
'Rank' refers to position in global list of top 100 institutions for engineering and technology qualifications. Compiled by the Times Higher Education Supplement and gathered by CERN.

For the past decade or so, European VCs have been cheerfully ignoring the academic and scientific communities...But, to quote Bob Dylan, the times they are a changin’...

For the past decade or so, European VCs have been cheerfully ignoring the academic and scientific communities. That’s because they have been making great returns from internet and mobile platforms, and have developed superb domain experience and expertise in these areas. Besides, making money out of science is very hard, and there are significant barriers to entry. But, to quote Bob Dylan, the times they are a changin’... First, the “easy” money from Web 2.0 is less obvious as this platform has reached maturity. Second, the many great challenges facing the world will require deep tech (or rather deep science) solutions. Third, the convergence of tech, AI, Genomics, etc. creating new “internet” type opportunities will create the next Googles and Amazons. Fourth, the desire for impact. A new generation of scientists, VCs, philanthropists, and entrepreneurs want to make the world a better place, not just get rich. They aren’t interested in the next app for drone delivered pizzas. Fifth, universities are under pressure to engage with VCs and to enable the channelling of their research into the outside world. And finally, VCs can bring money, but more importantly their talent, to combine with deep tech/science so this channel becomes REAL.

Dave Norwood

Oxford Sciences Innovation

As technology and, specifically, software continue their relentless march into every part of the economy, it will become critical for Europe to unlock the potential of its large research community. It will need to mobilise to help European tech companies succeed in new frontiers where tech meets science. The research community is a huge potential asset, exceeding both the US and China today in total numbers.

# of researchers in EU-28, China and the US

Legend

  • # of researchers in 2014
Note:
A researcher is a professional in conception or creation of knowledge, products, processes, methods, systems & management of these projects. # of researchers in full-time equivalent (FTE). Data sourced from Eurostat and gathered by CERN. Data for 2014.

There are more than 1.8 million scientists and engineers across Europe, specialising in every field. Germany and the UK are the two largest homes to the European research community by far, with more than 300,000 in each respective country. France, Italy, Poland and Spain all also have sizeable communities of scientists and engineers.

# of scientists and engineers by country

Legend

  • # of scientists and engineers
Note:
Scientists and engineers refer to persons with scientific or technological training who are engaged in professional work on science and technology. Data is sourced from Eurostat and gathered by CERN. Latest data is 2017.

Looking at the clusters of scientists and engineers relative to the overall population size of different countries, the highest density communities can be found in the Nordics and Switzerland.

Share of scientists and engineers in total population

Legend

  • % of scientists and engineers of total population
Note:
Scientists and engineers refer to persons with scientific or technological training who are engaged in professional work on science and technology. Data is sourced from Eurostat and gathered by CERN. Latest data is 2017.

Europe has some of the world's leading research centres, and the talent coming out of these centres has increasing entrepreneurial ambitions. The trend is clearly upward.

Europe is in the early days of tapping its R&D talent pool. There are still barriers here with regards to tech transfer and IP, access to funding to scale capital-intensive, research-based businesses, and to some degree, a perception barrier around the feasibility of 'commercially-driven,' non-academic careers. However, this is changing. The good news is that Europe has some of the world's leading research centers, and the talent coming out of these centers has increasing entrepreneurial ambitions. The trend is clearly upward.

Irina Haivas

Atomico

The Nordics have the highest density of researchers per capita.

Share of researchers of total population

Legend

  • % of researchers of total population
Note:
A researcher is a professional engaged in conception or creation of knowledge, products, processes, methods, and systems, as well as management of these projects. Data is sourced by Eurostat and gathered by CERN. Data is 2015, except Switzerland (2012).

The openness and the sharing of information is something, I presume, tech companies will have to do more of in the future and hopefully they can learn from CERN in that regard.

CERN’s natural environment is about collaboration and openness. By pooling together resources, brainpower and complementary expertise, CERN creates unique value that opens new doors for all. The result is more than the sum of what its Member States could create nationally, and so the benefit is more than a financial one. For this to work, CERN collaborates with a large number of partners and I believe this is something start-ups can learn from. CERN has developed a collaborative model of working which is very special and its governance has proven it is capable of extraordinary advances in science and technology since its creation in 1954. The Large Hadron Collider and the discovery of the Higgs boson are concrete examples that highlight the success of this international collaboration. The openness and the sharing of information is something, I presume, tech companies will have to do more of in the future and hopefully they can learn from CERN in that regard.

Giovanni Anelli

European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN)

It's clear that Europe has an incredible research community, but Europe's challenge is to unlock this potential to help strengthen the European tech ecosystem. The research community itself believes we need to simplify access to funding and bridge the current divide between them and the tech community.

Stated briefly, what could be done to better support the academic/research community to start companies and help them succeed?

Legend

  • % of respondents
Note:
Academic/researcher respondents only. Based on respondents that gave explicit responses only.

The European tech ecosystem is built on top of a large pool of researcher talent that it has largely untapped.

European researcher talent

Eurostat

2m
Total researchers in Europe.

Europe's research community is an ideas and knowledge factory and produces research at a level that is globally competitive and on par with the US.

# of publications in Europe, China and the US

Legend

  • Count of publications in 2017
Note:
'Count' refers to a fractional count that takes into account the percentage of authors from that institution/country and the number of affiliated institutions per paper. Data sourced via Nature Index and gathered by CERN.

But it is not just quantity, but also the quality of research that originates from Europe. The European research community leads the world by share of publications in the top 10% most cited, though China is gaining ground at an impressive rate.

Share of publications in the top 10% most cited publications

Legend

  • Share in 2000 (%)
  • Share in 2014 (%)
Note:
A fractional count takes into account the percentage of authors from that institution/country and the number of affiliated institutions per paper. Data sourced via European Commission Directorate-General for Research and Innovation and gathered by CERN.

For its size, Switzerland is the publication powerhouse of Europe, driven by the strength of its world-leading research institutions such as ETH Zurich and EPF Lausanne.

# of publications per country (fractional count)

Legend

  • Fractional count of publications in 2017
Note:
A fractional count that takes into account the percentage of authors from that institution/country and the number of affiliated institutions per paper. Data is for 2017. Data sourced via Nature Index and gathered by CERN.

Even though the largest countries in Europe publish the most papers, the share of publications in the top 10% most cited reveals a wider group of countries contributing strongly to European research. European research talent is inherently distributed. As tech and research collide further, this will likely only further drive the already rich level of geographic diversity that characterises the European tech ecosystem.

Share of publications in the top 10% most cited publications

Legend

Note:
A fractional count takes into account the percentage of authors from that institution/country and the number of affiliated institutions per paper. Data is for 2014, the most recent available. Data sourced via European Commission RIO and gathered by CERN.

Germany's role as a research and innovation powerhouse across various industries is reflected by its status as the clear European #1 in creating new patents, generating 2x the number of patents as the second most prolific country, France.

# of patent applications to the European Patent Office by country

Legend

  • # of patent applications
Note:
Data is for 2017. Russia, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey in year 2014. Iceland in year 2013. Data sourced via Eurostat and gathered by CERN.

The European tech ecosystem is underpinned by a supply of world-class academic talent.

World-class technical universities

Eurostat

31%
of the world's Top 100 engineering and technology universities globally are European.