Which is the most innovative country in Europe?

Could Malta, a little island nation with a population of 400,000, be the most IT-savvy country in Europe?

Well, it all depends how you measure it. Technology exports, innovation, research spending or broadband usage: all skew the answer in different directions. Scandinavian countries lead in telecommunications deployment, Germany in patent awards and others in technology exports.

For instance Malta, a member of the European Union since May 2004, derives a greater proportion of its export revenue from high technology than any other European country, according to figures from Eurostat, the statistical service of the European Commission. High-tech goods and services accounted for 55.9 per cent of Malta’s exports in 2004.

In Ireland, where the government has worked hard to attract pan-European manufacturing, distribution and service operations for IT manufacturers including Apple Computer Inc., Dell Inc. and Intel Corp., high technology only accounted for 29.1 per cent of the country’s exports. In comparison, the U.S. gained 27 per cent of its export revenue from high technology and Japan 22.8 per cent.

For the U.K. the figure is 22.7 per cent, and for France 20 per cent, with Germany trailing at 14.8 per cent.

Eurostat’s definition of high-tech encompasses more than just computers: It also includes the manufacture of consumer electronic devices, pharmaceuticals, medical instruments and aircraft. The service side is almost exclusively IT-related, though: it includes telecommunications, computer and related activities and R&D (research and development).

Malta’s high-tech industry is a giant in another surprising sense: production value or, roughly speaking, sales. Its manufacturers generated annual average production value of