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Belgium - European Semester

The Europe 2020 Strategy set a 3% objective for R&D intensity for the EU as a whole and most Member States have adopted a national R&D intensity target for 2020. The European Semester, the EU's annual cycle of economic policy coordination, undertakes a detailed analysis of the EU Member States’ plans for R&I investment and structural reforms of national R&I systems, and provides them with recommendations.

The Annual Growth Survey 2016 highlighted that investing in R&I at national level is critical for growth and that therefore Member States should continue to prioritise public investments in R&I, ensuring their efficiency and leverage with regard to business investment. Member States need to keep up the pace of reforms to ensure an investment-friendly environment. See more information about the European Semester.

 
 

Research and Innovation Performance

The European Semester supports Member States' structural reforms in different policy areas to promote jobs, growth and investment. Research and innovation play a key role in this context. That is why the Commission gives recommendations to and closely work with the Member States to increase the performance of their national R&I systems.

Have a look and see how the country is performing.

Report year
2016
Document type
Exercise type
R&I performance
Geo coverage
Publication date
10 November 2016

European Semester Country Report

Belgium is a strong innovator with an above-EU-average performance, although it declined slightly in 2015 and remains below the group of EU innovation leaders. However, the high quality of the science base is not sufficient by itself to translate into innovation output. The proportion of high-growth, innovative enterprise in the total economy remains low. Total R&D intensity in Belgium reached 2.45 % of GDP in 2015, narrowing the gap both with the Europe 2020 target (3 % of GDP), and with the average of innovation leaders (3.05 %). However, public R&D intensity, at 0.68 %, remains low compared to the EU average and innovation leaders.

Ensuring the efficiency and coherence of public support for research and innovation remains a challenge, especially to foster high-growth innovative enterprises. Regional innovation strategies, coupled to fiscal incentives at the federal level, have aimed at fostering innovation-led business competitiveness. Following overall evaluations, regional development strategies have expanded their initial science/technology focus to encompass innovation more broadly. The focus on boosting innovation in SMEs and start-ups has increased. Total public support for private R&D has become the highest in the OECD, reaching 0.41 % of GDP. However, reflecting its generic nature and the concentration of R&D, more than 90 % of this fiscal support goes to large companies, mostly those active in high-tech sectors. The scope for increasing the efficiency, effectiveness and coherence of public support for R&I in Belgium is likely to be significant.

Furthermore, a wider base of businesses investing in knowledge-based capital could help boost innovation and productivity growth. Furthermore, while the stock of knowledge-based capital is high, investment mostly occurs in highly-productive innovative firms, while a large pool of firms underinvests. This decline can in future lead to a slowdown in innovation performance of certain sectors and partly explain the slowdown in total factor productivity growth. Investment in knowledge-based capital is a major driver of productivity and growth as it usually underpins innovations and their subsequent adoption.

A skilled workforce to develop and use technology for new ideas and products is also essential to boost innovation. The comparably low percentage of students and graduates in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) might become a concern for future innovation capacity.

Report year
2017
Document type
Exercise type
European Semester Country Report
Geo coverage
Publication date
22 February 2017

European Semester - Country specific recommendation

Horizon 2020 Policy Support Facility (PSF)

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