Report 2020

Poland on the way to SDGs
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Goal 9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation

Research and development in the world

Every year countries are allocating increasing amounts to research and development (R&D), which positively affects innovativeness of the global economy. Since 2005, the global expenditure on R&D has more than doubled, to 2.2 billion USD (in PPP). Northern America and European countries bear almost half of these expenditure, although their contribution has decreased by 10 percentage points since 2005. At the same time, the involvement of Eastern Asian countries in developing R&D activity has visibly increased – currently these countries contribute almost 35% of the global R&D expenditure.

Along with the increasing expenditure on R&D, investment in this activity, measured by the volume of expenditure on research and development activity in relation to GDP, is growing as well. In a global scale, this proportion has increased from 1.53% in 2005 to 1.72% at present. Although in most parts of the world R&D activity is intensifying, large discrepancies between regions may still be observed. Northern America and Eastern Asia remain the leaders in innovation, where the expenditure on R&D in relation to GDP has increased to 2.96% and 2.47%, respectively. Among the regions where expenditure on R&D is above the global average is Europe (growth to 1.86% of GDP). On the other hand, the lowest levels of R&D activity, and much lower than in 2005, are observed in Central Asia (fall to 0.14% of GDP). R&D expenditure as a proportion of GDP has also been, and still is, low in Sub-Saharan Africa, where it fluctuates around 0.37% of GDP.

Expenditures on R&D in % of GDP

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2005 2017
WORLD 1.53 1.72
Northern Africa 0.32 0.61
Sub-Saharan Africa 0.37 0.38
Latin America and the Caribbean 0.55 0.67
Northern America 2.47 2.69
Southern Asia 0.69 0.56
South-Eastern Asia 0.64 0.97
Central Asia 0.26 0.14
Eastern Asia 2.04 2.47
Western Asia 0.71 0.88
EUROPE 1.59 1.86
OCEANIA 1.84 1.78

The growth of science and research acquires also a human dimension. Since 2005, the number of researchers has increased globally by 33%, to 1.2 thousand persons per million inhabitants. Northern America has invariably been, and still is, the global leader in this respect, presently boasting 4.2 thousand researchers per million inhabitants (12% more than in 2005). It is closely followed by Europe, with 3.4 thousand researchers per million inhabitants (26% more than in 2005). Third in line is Eastern Asia, with its above-the-global-average of 1.8 thousand researchers per million inhabitants (an increase of 63% compared to 2005). Southern Asia is another region which has seen a significant, almost two-fold, increase in the number of researchers in the same period (to 0.3 thousand persons per million inhabitants). Nevertheless, it still remains one of the lowest in the world.

Researchers per million inhabitants

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2005 2017
WORLD 903 1198
Northern Africa 473 723
Sub-Saharan Africa 71 99
Latin America and the Caribbean 357 515
Northern America 3791 4246
Southern Asia 139 280
South-Eastern Asia 329 740
Central Asia 472 475
Eastern Asia 1082 1766
Western Asia 629 967
EUROPE 2732 3446
OCEANIA 2928 3332

Development of information and communication technologies

The last decade saw a dynamic development of information and communication technologies. Nearly all of the world's population (over 96% of all people) have access to 2G cellular network, and almost the same number (over 90%) to 3G network, its newer version. Also the 4G network, providing until recently the fastest and best-quality data transfer, is widely accessible (to almost 80% of the global community). Simultaneously, the number of Internet users has been steadily growing; since 2005, it has increased by almost 250%, to over 4 billion people, or 54% of the global population. The Internet has become more accessible globally, but not to the same extent in all parts of the world, therefore there are still large regional discrepancies in this respect. Europe leads the rating with 83% of inhabitants having access to the Internet, closely followed by both Americas (77%). There are significantly fewer Internet users in Asia and Pacific region (48%), whereas Africa, with only 28% of inhabitants with access to the Internet, continues to be the region with the smallest percentage of Internet users in the world.

Internet users per 100 inhabitants

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2005 2019
WORLD 16.8 53.6
AFRICA 2.7 28.2
AMERICA 39.0 77.2
Asia and Pacific 9.5 48.4
EUROPE 43.1 82.5
Arab states 8.3 51.6
Commonwealth of Independent States 15.2 72.2

R&D expenditure in Poland

Poland has been gradually allotting increasing amounts to research and development activity since the beginning of the decade. In 2018, the country earmarked approx. EUR 6 billion for this purpose, which was twice as much as in 2010. As regards the structure of this spending, there was a larger increase in the resources assigned to current expenditure than to investment. Poland has also intensified its R&D activity (from 0.72% of GDP in 2010 to 1.21%), but its volume remains below the EU average (which has grown from 1.92% to 2.12% of GDP in the same period). The difference between the amounts earmarked for R&D in Poland and in the European leaders of innovation (e.g. Sweden, Austria, Germany or Denmark) is still huge; the level of R&D activity in the case of the latter is three times as high as in Poland.
What has changed over the last decade is the structure of both financing R&D and its performance. Currently, over half of the resources devoted to this purpose come from the business enterprise sector (53%) and a smaller part from the government sector (35%), while in 2010 proportions were opposite (24% and 61%, respectively). In addition to expanding their R&D expenditure, private enterprises have also been performing this kind of activity increasingly often. Currently, they are responsible for around two thirds of the total spending on R&D (apart from their own resources, they also use some funds from the government sector and from abroad), which approximates the EU average. The Polish higher education sector continues to have a relatively high share in the structure of R&D performance by sectors (above 30%). On the other hand, the involvement of the government in the performance of R&D activities has considerably decreased.

Expenditures on R&D in % of GDP

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2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
PL 0.72 0.75 0.88 0.87 0.94 1.00 0.96 1.03 1.21
EU 1.92 1.96 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.08 2.12

Polish researchers increasingly often seek legal protection of their work which would extend to the whole EU territory. Since the beginning of the decade, the number of patent applications submitted to the European Patent Office (EPO) more than doubled, amounting to 469 in 2019, or to 66 per million inhabitants (having increased from 47 patent applications in 2010). However, this figure is still considerably lower than the EU average, which in the same period increased to 140 patent applications per million inhabitants.

Expenditures on R&D by sectors of performance (%)

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2010 2018
PL business enterprise sector 26.6 66.1
government sector 35.9 1.9
higher education sector 37.2 31.7
private non-profit sector 0.3 0.3
EU business enterprise sector 61.9 66.5
government sector 12.9 10.8
higher education sector 24.2 21.9
private non-profit sector 1.0 0.8

R&D personnel

Along with the higher R&D intensity in Poland, the number of research and development personnel increased as well. When expressed in full–time equivalents, this figure is currently almost twice as big as observed at the beginning of the decade (162 thousand compared to 82 thousand in 2010). As in other EU countries, the sector is dominated by researchers (apart from them R&D personnel includes technicians and equivalent staff as well as other supporting staff). Even though the proportion of researchers to the total number of R&D personnel in Poland is smaller now than in 2010 (73% and 79%, respectively), it still is above the EU average (fluctuating around 64%).

R&D personnel accounts for 0.96% of the total number of economically active people in Poland, which is twice as much as at the beginning of the decade (yet less than the EU average of 1.37%). The number of R&D personnel has grown to the largest extent in the business sector, currently accounting for 0.51% of all economically active people (compared to 0.11% in 2010), and in the higher education sector (0.42% compared to 0.26% in 2010). The number of R&D personnel in the government sector and in private non-profit sector is the smallest, which accounts for 0.03% and 0.01% of the total economically active, respectively.

R&D personnel as the share of active population (%)

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2010 2018
PL 0.48 0.96
1.08 1.37

Telecommunications infrastructure in Poland

The first cellular network based on digital technology was introduced in Poland in the second half of the 1990s. Since 2003, almost entire Polish population (nearly 99%) has had access to 2G cellular network, and since 2015, to new generation networks (3G and 4G). Increasing numbers of inhabitants of Poland regularly use the Internet: 78% of all Polish people aged 16–74 go online at least once a week (55% at the beginning of the decade), and 68% every day (42% in 2010). However, the accessibility of the Internet is still lower in Poland than the EU average (85% of EU inhabitants use the internet at least once a week, and 79% every day).

Percentage of persons aged 16–74 using the Internet every day (%)

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2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
PL 42 45 46 47 51 52 57 61 64 68
EU 53 56 58 62 65 67 71 72 76 79

Among other factors, everyday Internet activity is connected with the user’s age and place of residence. The group of respondents who use the Internet daily to the largest extent – 90% – are those aged 16–24. Another age group whose members are comparatively highly active on the Internet every day are 25–54 year-olds (80%), whereas the least active users of the Internet are persons aged 55–74, only 40% of whom declare being online every day. Even though this latter percentage has considerably grown over the last decade, when slightly more than 10% of respondents aged 55–74 declared using the Internet every day, it is nevertheless lower than the EU average (57%). Significantly more regular Internet users reside in cities (77% of their inhabitants declare everyday activity on the Internet against 53% in 2010) than in rural areas (where presently Internet users account for 58% of all inhabitants, compared to 33% in 2010).

Percentage of persons using the Internet every day by age groups (%)

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2010 2018
16-24 years 25-54 years 55-74 years 16-24 years 25-54 years 55-74 years
PL 82 47 12 97 80 36
EU 78 59 27 96 87 57

Industry in the Polish economy

Poland is one of the most industrialised economies in the EU. Industry generates 22% of gross value added in the total economy (which rates Poland among the top ten EU countries in this respect), and 24% of all workers is employed in this sector (in the EU it amounts to 17%). As compared to the beginning of the decade, the innovation activity of industrial enterprises: the percentage of innovative industrial enterprises grew from 17% in 2008–2010 to 24%. Most often, companies introduce process innovations: in 2016–2018, new or improved business processes were implemented by 20% of enterprises operating in industry, while new or improved products were introduced by 17% of entities.

Enterprises in manufacturing by level of technology (%)

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2010 2018
high technology 2.4 2.6
medium-high technology 13.9 14.9
medium-low technology 33.2 38.0
low technology 50.4 44.5

Innovativeness of enterprises grows with the level of technology advancement. In manufacturing which is the largest section of industry, the most innovative companies are among high technology entities (half of them) and among medium-high technology enterprises (42%). However, among entities with medium-low level of technology advancement there are 24% of innovative companies and among those with low technology – 19% of entities.

Innovative manufacturing enterprises by level of technology (%)

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2010 2018
high technology 40.0 52.4
medium-high technology 31.5 42.1
medium-low technology 18.4 23.6
low technology 11.6 18.5

Raport 2020
Poland on the way to SDGs
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