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The Netherlands maintains its position as a European innovation leader but sees its lead shrinking according to the European Innovation Scoreboard 2024. Despite being in fourth place, the Dutch score is just above the threshold for innovation leaders. Minister Beljaarts warns that regulatory pressure and funding challenges are hindering SMEs. Strengths remain education level, research quality, and digital skills. Private investments in innovation lag behind.

A closer look at the numbers

The European Innovation Scoreboard 2024 shows that the Netherlands, with a score of 26% above the EU average, still falls within the category of innovation leaders. This is a decline compared to previous years, reducing the lead over other countries. Denmark, Sweden, and Finland continue to occupy the top three positions, while the Netherlands lingers just behind these countries in fourth place.

Minister Dirk Beljaarts of Economic Affairs points to several causes for the declining trend. A significant factor is the regulatory pressure that mainly affects SMEs. According to Beljaarts, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) struggle to focus on innovation due to the many regulations and lack of funding.

Strengths of the Netherlands

Despite the decline, there are visible strengths in Dutch innovation capabilities. The high level of education, the quality of research, and the digital skills of the population are prominent factors contributing to the innovation performance of the Netherlands. These strengths ensure a high level of knowledge and good application of digital technologies in innovation.

One of the weaknesses for the Netherlands remains the relatively low amount of private investments in innovation. Although a slight improvement is visible in 2024, the Netherlands remains well below the EU average in this area. Public investments and government support for private investments, however, remain at or above the EU level.

Comparison with other countries

Compared to other countries in the European Union, the performance of the Netherlands is stable but not sufficient to enter the top three. Denmark continues to lead the list, followed by Sweden and Finland. Austria, in sixth place, and Belgium, which has dropped to the category of strong innovators, illustrate the dynamics within the EU ranking.

Minister Beljaarts emphasizes the need for targeted measures to strengthen the innovation capabilities of the Netherlands. This includes reducing regulatory pressure for SMEs and promoting private investments in research and development. The new cabinet is focusing on a strong entrepreneurial climate to support companies in their innovation activities.