High-tech statistics

From Statistics Explained

Data from December 2013. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database.

This article analyses data on high-technology or 'high-tech' sectors in the European Union (EU) and in some EFTA and candidate countries. Creating, exploiting and commercialising new technologies is essential in the global race for competitiveness and high-tech sectors and enterprises are key drivers of economic growth, productivity and social protection, and generally a source of high value-added and well-paid employment.

High-tech can be defined according to three different approaches:

  • the sector approach looks at the high-tech manufacturing sector, medium high-tech manufacturing sector, and high-tech knowledge-intensive service sector, focusing on employment, and economic indicators as shown in Table 1;
  • the product approach considers whether a product is high-tech or not and examines trade in high-tech products;
  • the patent approach distinguishes high-tech patents from others and also defines what biotechnology patents are.
Table 1: Economic statistics on high-tech sectors, EU-27, 2010
Source: Eurostat (htec_eco_sbs2)

Main statistical findings

Table 2: Statistics on employment in high-tech sectors, EU-27 and selected countries, 2012
Source: Eurostat (htec_emp_nat2)
Figure 1: High-tech exports by high-technology group of products, EU-27 and selected countries, 2012

Economic statistics on high-tech

In 2010, the European Union had almost 50 000 enterprises in high-tech manufacturing (Table 1). High-tech manufacturers were most numerous in Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy and the Czech Republic, all together accounting for around 55 % of the high-tech sector in the EU-27. The United Kingdom displayed the greatest number of enterprises in the high-tech knowledge-intensive services (KIS) sector (139 017), followed by Italy and France.

An interesting picture emerges when considering turnover: Germany led the way in 2010, with a total turnover and with a value added almost twice as high as in the countries with comparable numbers of high tech manufacturers. Germany's turnover rounded to EUR 109 billion in high-tech manufacturing, ahead of France (EUR 71 billion) and Italy (EUR 49 billion). The value added was distributed in 2010 in a similar way with the highest contribution of Germany close to EUR 38 billion, followed by the United Kingdom and France (EUR 21 billion and EUR 20 billion, respectively). The turnover value figures were higher for high-tech KIS sector comparing to high-tech manufacturing except for Hungary, Slovakia and Finland. The same trend is observed for the production value and the figures were at least three times higher in Greece, Spain, Lithuania, Netherlands, Portugal and the United Kingdom. One of the main reasons for this is the size class of enterprises and the prevailing share of small and medium-sized enterprises (SME).

Employment in high-tech

In 2011, 34 million people were employed in the manufacturing sector in the EU-28, representing 15.7 % of the total employment. Out of the 34 million workers, 2.4 million were employed in high-tech manufacturing, which corresponded to 1.1 % of total employment. High-tech KIS sector in 2011 was more than double that of high-tech manufacturing and accounted for 2.7 % of total employment. The shares of both manufacturing and services in the high-technology sectors in total employment varied considerably from one country to another in 2012. High-tech manufacturing shares ranged from 0.3 % in Latvia, Turkey and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, to 2.5% in Switzerland, 2.6% in Hungary and 3.0% in Ireland. Discrepancies in terms of the proportion of high-tech KIS in total employment were also observed across countries. In 2012, the biggest share of more than 4 % was recorded in Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Finland, Sweden and Iceland, and the lowest of below 2 % was found in Turkey, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Greece and Portugal (see Table 2).

At the EU-28 level, over the 2008–2011 period, the number of employed persons in the manufacturing sector decreased by roughly 3.4 % a year. The high-tech manufacturing recorded a slower fall of 2.5 % a year. This decrease in employment can be partially explained by the economical crisis in 2010 affecting numerous European countries. The impact of the crisis was also observed in the services sector which only recorded a slight growth of 0.5% a year from 2008 to 2011. At the same time, the high-technology services (KIS) showed a certain resistance to the crisis and recorded a rise in the number of jobs at the level of 1.3 % on average per year from 2008 to 2011. Some important differences emerge when comparing the employment change among countries with significant growth on the one hand, and equally significant decline on the other. Twenty out of thirty-three observed countries registered a fall in the employment in high-tech manufacturing in the 2008–2012 period, with the biggest fall of 11.8 % recorded in Portugal, followed by a fall of 11.1% in Norway and 8.5 % in Finland. Growth in high-tech manufacturing was observed in the following three countries: Czech Republic (5.0%), Romania (5.0%) and Turkey (9.1%). The loss in high-tech KIS was more moderate. Nine countries registered a decline, with the biggest job loss reported in Croatia (-3.9%) and Latvia (-4.5%). The best performing countries in terms of the growth of the employment in high-tech KIS were Slovakia (7.5%), Luxembourg (9.3%) and Turkey (16.5%).

In 2011, in the EU-28, women accounted for 29.7 % of the employment in manufacturing and this share reached 40.2 % in high-tech manufacturing. However, in 2012, even if in general the shares of women were higher in high-tech manufacturing than in manufacturing, only five countries reported shares higher for women in high-tech manufacturing (above 50 % of all the employed): Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.

In contrast, the high-tech KIS sector, as compared to the total services sector, showed lower shares of women in all countries with the EU-28 average of 30.7 % in high-tech KIS and 54.3 % in services in 2011. Moreover, none of the countries reached the gender balance in high-tech KIS in 2012: lowest share was recorded in the Netherlands (23.2%), Croatia (24.1%) and Turkey (25.0%). On the other hand, women were relatively strongly represented in Cyprus (40.0%), Bulgaria (43.9%) and Lithuania (44.4%). The reasons behind the lower female participation in high-tech KIS lay in the specificities of sectors included in that aggregate: Computer programming, Scientific research and development, Telecommunication, and corresponding occupations which apparently remain more popular among men.

Tables 2 and 3 compare the percentages of women of both high-tech sectors with the respective total in manufacturing or services

Figure 2 - Regional disparities in employment in high-tech sectors as a percentage of total employment (NUTS 2 level), 2012

Trade in high-tech products

Trade in high-tech products refers to the import and export of products identified as being of high-technology. The high-tech products are divided in 9 groups: ‘Aerospace’, ‘Armament’, ‘Chemistry’, ‘Computer-office machines’, ‘Electrical machinery’, ‘Electronics-telecommunications’, ‘Non-electrical machinery’, ‘Pharmacy’, ‘Scientific instruments’. On the EU-28 level, the export value of high-tech products represented 15.6 % of all exports value in 2012. The two groups of products together, i.e. ‘Electronics – telecommunication’ and ‘Aerospace’, accounted for 46.1% of the high-tech exports worldwide (Figure 1). ‘Scientific instruments’, ‘Computer – office machines’ and ‘Pharmacy’ jointly represented two fifths of global high-tech exports. By contrast, ‘Chemistry, ‘Non-electrical machinery’, ‘Electrical machinery’ and ‘Armament’ summed up to a mere 12.8% of total high-tech exports.

Within the EU-28, Germany was the leading exporter of high-tech products in 2012, followed by the Netherlands, France, the United Kingdom and Belgium. For the aforementioned countries except the United Kingdom, a positive trade balance was noted as well.
In 2012, the majority of observed countries recorded an increase in high-tech exports compared to 2011.

High-tech employment at regional level

Figure 2 shows the regional discrepancies in high-tech sectors (by NACE Rev. 2) as a share of total employment. This figure combines the national average for each country as well as the regions with the lowest and highest shares of employment in high-tech sectors. At the EU-28 level, in 2011, the high-tech sectors (high-tech manufacturing and high-tech KIS) represented 3.8 % of the total employment with two-thirds of persons occupied in high-tech knowledge-intensive services and one-third occupied in high-tech manufacturing.

The national and regional highest and lowest shares vary significantly from country to country and some significant discrepancies can be observed at the regional level in the countries.

With regard to national averages, 16 out of 32 observed countries registered values higher than the EU-28 average (3.9 %), with rates of more than 5.0 % in Denmark, Ireland, Hungary, Finland, Malta and Switzerland. On the other hand, the lowest national shares of high-tech sectors in total employment (of below 2.5 %) were registered in Greece, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania, Turkey and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. It must be noted that 6 European countries (Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg and Malta) and Iceland are classified only at country level, taking into account the regional data presented in Figure 2.

At regional level, especially considering capital regions or those situated close to capitals, high shares of employment in high-tech sectors are often observed. Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire (United Kingdom), situated in close proximity to London, stood out with 9.7 % of their labour force in high-tech sectors. The following regions rated similarly: Province Brabant Wallon (BE) with 9.2 %, Hovedstaden (DK) with 9.6 %, Bratislavsky kraj (SK) with 8.6 % and Helsinki-Uusimaa (FI) with 9.4 %. By contrast, the lowest shares of less than 1 % were registered in Aydin, Denizli, Mugla (TR), Swietokrzyskie (PL), Sud-Vest Oltenia (RO), Thessalia (EL), and Canarias (ES). Turkey, Spain, Romania, Poland and Greece showed the biggest regional discrepancies when assessed by the ratio of the highest share to the lowest share. The lowest discrepancies in employment between regions were observed in Ireland, Croatia, Switzerland, Slovenia and Austria.

Data sources and availability

High-tech statistics uses various other domains and sources mainly within Eurostat's official statistics (CIS, COMEXT, HRST, LFS, SBS, SES, PATSTAT and R & D). Its coverage and availability is therefore dependent on these other primary sources.

The sectoral approach is an aggregation of manufacturing industries according to technological intensity (R & D expenditure/value added) and it is based on the Statistical classification of economic activities in the European Community (NACE) at 2- or 3-digit level for compiling aggregates related to high-technology, medium high-technology, medium low-technology and low-technology. Services are mainly aggregated into knowledge-intensive services (KIS) and less knowledge-intensive services (LKIS) based on the share of tertiary educated persons at NACE 2-digit level.

Note that, due to the revision of the NACE from NACE Rev. 1.1 to NACE Rev. 2, the definition of high-technology industries and knowledge-intensive services has changed in 2008. For high-tech statistics, it means that two different definitions (one according NACE Rev. 1.1 and one according NACE Rev. 2) are used in parallel and the data according to both NACE versions are presented in separate tables depending on data availability.

Within the sectoral approach, a second classification has been created, Knowledge Intensive Activities (KIA), based on the share of tertiary educated people in each sectors of industries and services according to NACE at 2-digit level and for all EU 28 Member States. A threshold was then applied to rank sectors as knowledge intensive. In contrast to the first sectoral approach mixing two methodologies, one for manufacturing industries and one for services, the KIA classification is based on one methodology for all the sectors of industries and services.

The aggregations in use are total Knowledge Intensive Activities (KIA) and Knowledge Intensive Activities in Business Industries (KIABI). Two versions are in use also for Knowledge Intensive Activities one according NACE Rev. 1.1 and one according NACE Rev. 2. The data in this article are according NACE Rev. 2.

The product approach was devised to complement the sectoral approach. The product list is based on the calculations of R & D intensity by groups of products (R & D expenditure/total sales). The groups classified as high-technology products are aggregated on the basis of the Standard international trade classification (SITC). The product approach is used for data on high-tech trade.

Due to the revision of SITC from SITC Rev. 3 to SITC Rev. 4, the definition of high-tech products has also changed in 2011. The data in this article are according to SITC Rev. 4.

High-tech patents and biotechnology patents are defined according to the patent approach. The groups are aggregated on the basis of the International patent classification (IPC) - 8th edition. Biotechnology patents are also aggregated on the basis of the IPC - 8th edition.

For more detailed information of the various high-tech definitions see:


Europe 2020

Investment in research, development, education and skills is one of the European Union’s central policy areas. These key areas are essential to economic growth and to the development of the knowledge-based economy. The Europe 2020 strategy sets out a vision of Europe's social market economy for the 21st century. It aims to turn the EU into a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy that delivers high levels of employment, productivity and social cohesion. Innovation is a motor for economic progress: it is therefore a key element of Europe 2020.

Europe 2020 puts forward three priorities that go together and reinforce each other:

  • smart growth: developing an economy based on knowledge and innovation;
  • sustainable growth: promoting a more resource efficient, greener and more competitive economy;
  • inclusive growth: fostering a high-employment economy, delivering social and geographical cohesion.

Innovation Union

The European Commission has defined seven flagship initiatives to create progress under the Europe 2020 strategy. One of these is the "Innovation Union", supporting ‘Smart growth’. The Innovation Union initiative improves the framework for research and innovation in the EU. It also improves the access to finance. The aim is to ensure that innovative ideas can be turned into products and services that create growth and jobs.

A key element of the Innovation Union is to complete the European Research Area (ERA). ERA aims to increase the competitiveness of European research institutions by bringing them together and encouraging a more inclusive way of work. Increased mobility of knowledge workers and deeper co-operation among EU research institutions are central goals of ERA.

ERA should inspire the best talents to enter research careers in Europe and stimulate industry to invest more in European research. It enables European researchers to develop strong links with partners around the world, so that Europe benefits from the progress of knowledge worldwide, contributes to global development and takes a leading role in international initiatives to solve global issues.

However, there are still national and institutional barriers which limit the development of ERA. In 2008, the European Commission and the Member States launched new initiatives to develop ERA, including the ‘Ljubljana Process’ to improve the political governance of ERA. Several initiatives on specific areas have been initiated. These initiatives aim at establishing partnerships with Member States and business, universities and research organizations to develop the ERA in their specific field.

One of these five new initiatives intends to create a European Partnership for Researchers for mobility and career development. Improving the mobility of researchers will improve the flow of knowledge throughout Europe, balance demand and supply for researchers at the European level, help create centres of excellence and improve the skills of researchers in Europe. Improving career prospects for researchers in Europe will stimulate more young people to choose a research career, help keep researchers in Europe and attract more talented non-European researchers.

See also

Further Eurostat information


Main tables

High-tech industry and knowledge-intensive services (t_htec)


High-tech industry and knowledge-intensive services (htec)
High-tech industries and knowledge-intensive services: economic statistics at national level (htec_eco)
High-tech industries and knowledge-intensive services: employment statistics at national and regional level (htec_emp)
High-tech industries and knowledge-intensive services: science and technology statistics at national and regional level (htec_sti)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Other information

  • Decision 1608/2003 of 22 July 2003 concerning the production and development of Community statistics on science and technology (Legal text)
  • Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 995/2012 of 26 October 2012 laying down detailed rules for the implementation of Decision No 1608/2003/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the production and development of Community statistics on science and technology (Legal text)

External links