The European Delivery Innovator Index: which nations have the most potential for innovation?

This research was conducted by return loads platform Courier Exchange, pulling from sources including the International Energy Agency and the World Bank.

The UK delivery market is booming, thanks largely to the rapid growth of the ecommerce market, which tripled in size between 2015 and 2021. 

To support ecommerce’s meteoric rise, the UK’s domestic courier, express and parcel (CEP) market is set for a 7% compound annual growth rate in the next five years. The picture for EU nations is similar, with the EU’s overall parcel market expanding by 70% from 2015 to 2020.

The delivery industry is now having to innovate and introduce new technology to keep up with demand from the sectors that rely upon it. At the same time, governments everywhere are setting ambitious sustainability goals to bring greenhouse gas emissions down.

With this in mind, we at Courier Exchange decided to examine which European countries are set to be the biggest delivery innovators. We analysed which nations have the most potential to advance their road delivery services, based on the infrastructure currently in place and their readiness to advance further.

How we did it 

We analysed data on European countries’ performance against the following metrics:

  • Number of charging stations per electric vehicle (EV)
  • Capacity for innovation
  • Transport infrastructure
  • Road quality
  • Government legislation on autonomous vehicles

This data was all readily available and came from sources such as the International Energy Agency, World Bank and government websites for each country. We removed San Marino, Andorra, Belarus and Liechtenstein from the final rankings due to a lack of available data.

We compiled the data into an index and assigned a score for various criteria to produce an overall score. The higher a country’s rank, the better placed it is to be a leader in delivery innovation.

The Netherlands comes top, with the highest scores for charging points available and  transport infrastructure, and scoring well for other metrics too. One initiative in the Netherlands is parcel delivery service DPD moving to become carbon-neutral in the country’s 30 biggest cities.

Germany is close behind the Netherlands in second place, scoring more when it comes to the capacity for innovation and the number of electric vehicles. Following in third place is France, which scores highly for the quality of its road and transport infrastructure.

The UK comes fifth, above Sweden, Spain and Belgium. In terms of automated vehicles (AVs), it’s ahead of every European country apart from Germany. The UK and Germany both have legislation in place allowing people to drive AVs with significant restrictions. While every other country either has no legislation in development or is still at the testing stage.

At the foot of the index are Iceland, Greece and Poland, which score less than half what the top-ranked countries do.

Research from mobile computer developer Scandit revealed that different parts of Europe are dealing with different challenges and following varying investment priorities. For example, 43% of delivery companies in eastern Europe and Nordic countries are focusing on new apps and features. In southern Europe, by contrast, just 5% of companies are looking to produce new apps and functionality.

Luke Davies, Commercial Director at Courier Exchange, says:

“Demand for delivery services is showing no signs of slowing down, so to keep up, the sector will need to find efficiencies where it can. Innovation will play a huge role in achieving this and innovation will come in many guises.

“We’re certain to see drones and automated vehicles delivering packages in the coming years. And electric vehicles will, of course, be central to the future of the industry, particularly as the Ukraine war rumbles on and keeps fuel prices high.

“But there will also be plentiful change behind the scenes, in areas away from public view. For example, companies will increasingly lean on artificial intelligence to uncover ways of streamlining processes. The internet of things will feed data into AI systems, allowing for closer tracking of goods and better insight into traffic patterns. And AI will take over more and more processes and decisions.

“It’s vital that the delivery sector embraces technology and adapts, particularly when customers have become so used to convenience and speedy delivery. Customers are also demanding that the goods they buy are sustainable, at every stage of the supply chain.

“What’s encouraging is that so many European nations are well-positioned when it comes to innovation. Just how ready they are varies from territory to territory, but the overall picture is promising and once innovative practices become the norm – and are seen to be successful – other countries will introduce them.”


The European Delivery Innovator Index analysed metrics associated with progress in the courier industry, to suggest which countries are best placed to support innovation in the delivery market.

San Marino, Andorra, Belarus and Liechtenstein were excluded from the final ranking due to a lack of available data.

Six categories were used to analyse each country:

  • Number of charging stations per electric vehicle (EV)
  • Capacity for innovation
  • Transport infrastructure
  • Road quality
  • Government legislation for autonomous vehicles

Each factor was given a score to find the overall ranking. All data is normalised to a 0-100 scale, with the country closest to a score of 100 considered to have the most potential for delivery innovation. 

While this research is not exhaustive, we’ve selected relevant metrics and conducted the research as thoroughly as possible.


Number of charging stations per electric vehicle (EV)

Capacity for innovation

Transport infrastructure

Road quality

Government legislation for autonomous vehicle

  • Inspired by analysis, we used the below scoring system:
    • 4 = legislation / approval in place to drive AVs
    • 3 = legislation / approval in place to drive AVs, but with significant caveats
    • 2 = legislation / approval in place for testing AVs
    • 1 = legislation in development
    • 0 = nothing in place / in development

The article was published on . It was updated on 8 May 2024 to make it more relevant and comprehensive.