(dpa) - European countries such as Sweden and Finland have the most innovative economies in the world, well ahead of the US and Japan, a European Union study released Thursday showed.
But the 27-member bloc's new members are woefully behind the leaders, with relatively little success in turning innovative ideas into products and patents, the study said.
The "European innovation scoreboard 2007," as the study is known, rates EU member states and other significant global economies according to 25 criteria including the number of science graduates, broadband internet penetration, public and private investment in research, sales of new products and number of patents.
According to those criteria, Sweden is the world's most innovative economy, followed by Switzerland and Finland. Four other EU states - Denmark, Germany, Britain and Luxembourg - also figure in the top 10.
By the same criteria, Japan is the world's sixth most innovative economy, while the US is the ninth. The EU has begun to close the "innovation gap" with Japan, especially in its use of broadband internet and its production of science graduates, the study said.
While the US lags behind innovators such as Sweden, its high-tech economy still has a "very significant" lead over the EU as a whole, the report said. Moreover, while the EU is catching up, it is doing so less quickly than in recent years, it said.
And taken as a whole, the EU ranks only 17th in the report, with the Nordic states' successes offset by weak performances in the south and east of the continent.
EU newcomers Romania and Bulgaria (joined 2007) and Latvia (joined 2004) scored less than half the EU average, being especially weak in their ability to turn investment and education into innovative goods.
Poland, Slovakia, Portugal, Greece and Hungary also made the study's bottom 10, together with would-be members Croatia and Turkey.
However, those countries also had some of the EU's highest innovation growth rates, meaning that they were at least beginning to close the innovation gap, the report said.