Labour and skills demands of research and development personnel in the business sector


The study focuses on research and development and the labour and skills demands of employees in the business sector. For an activity to be a research and development activity, it must satisfy five core criteria: novelty, creativity, uncertainty, systematicness and reproducibility.

A research and development worker is defined as a high-level business specialist who spends at least 10% of their working time on creative and systematic work aimed at acquiring and applying new knowledge, mainly through applied research and experimental development. Most Estonian businesses do not employ separate research and development personnel. It is generally carried out by specialists with a higher education in a variety of specialities in addition to their main work.

Among other things, the research and development, innovation and business development agenda aims at the development and growth of knowledge-intensive businesses and the development and export of higher value added products and services.

Moving towards a knowledge-based economy and promoting knowledge-intensive entrepreneurship requires evidence-based information about the demand for R&D workers in businesses.

84% of R&D workers in Estonia are found in ten sectors: information and communication, energy, occupational, scientific and technical activities, and of the manufacturing industry, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, electronics, electrical equipment, motor vehicles and other means of transport, machinery and equipment. The number of research and development workers in Estonian companies has increased by about half in the last decade, but is still only 60% of the European Union average.

About the study

The aim of the study was to determine how labour demands of R&D workers will change in the future and which skills profiles the business sector will need until the year 2035. The information from the study is necessary to design interventions that will lead to more R&D workers with the right skills entering the business sector in the future.

The study aimed to answer three research questions:

  • what are the sectors in Estonia where increasing knowledge intensity could potentially lead to the greatest leap towards higher added value?
  • which skills profiles are needed for R&D workers in businesses in these sectors?
  • how many R&D workers are there in different sectors in Estonia, and how will their demand change in the future?

Key findings