A Taxonomy of European Innovation Clubs

Wirkierman, Ariel Luis; Ciarli, Tommaso and Savona, Maria. 2023. A Taxonomy of European Innovation Clubs. Economia Politica. Journal of Analytical and Institutional Economics, 40(1), pp. 1-34. ISSN 1120-2890 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

The paper provides a novel, empirically grounded map of innovation 'clubs' in the EU, based on a unique analysis of micro-aggregated, country-level data. Using exploratory factor analysis we articulate innovation variables in a taxonomy of four 'latent' innovation theories: Network-Innovation-System, Kaldorian, New-Growth-Theory, and Schumpeterian. We then characterise clusters of countries ('clubs'), based on their performance against this taxonomy, and design a new map of EU innovation clubs. We identify an articulated map of EU innovation hierarchy beyond the rather well-known 'core-periphery' structure, and interpret how some of the peripheries are functional to the 'consolidated core' of innovative countries, raising an issue of long-term sustainability of such hierarchies. We also find that even the most innovative clusters show concerning weaknesses. The strongest cluster in terms of its innovation system does not seem to exploit its full potential and lags behind with respect to radical product innovations. Instead, the leading cluster in terms of radical product innovations is strongly dependent on external innovative activity, is focused on scale-intensive sectors, and has a fairly weak innovation system. The periphery of small countries that show a healthy network structure, do so because they mainly include supplier-dominated firms, reliant on innovation inputs from the core. We offer some reflections on innovation policy within a broader view of EU cohesion.

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JEL classification codes: O30, O52, C38

The authors gratefully acknowledge the support by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 649186 / ECRN 194562— ISIGrowth (Innovation-led, Sustainable and Inclusive Growth).


Innovation theories, National Innovation System, Exploratory Factor Analysis, European cohesion policy

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Institute of Management Studies
Institute of Management Studies > Structural Economic Analysis


9 December 2022Accepted
31 January 2023Published Online
April 2023Published

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Date Deposited:

09 Dec 2022 14:52

Last Modified:

26 Feb 2024 13:31

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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