Ukraine: innovation, tech and cutting-edge research

Ukraine has a rich history when it comes to scientific innovation, from physics to life sciences, chemistry and engineering. In this blog, part of a new series highlighting the contributions from Ukraine to global research, we analyze the growth and diversity of subject areas in Ukraine. We also look at Ukraine’s contribution to global Research Fronts™, which form when clusters of Highly Cited Papers™ are frequently cited together.

In recent years, Ukraine has developed a reputation as an international information technology (IT) hub. Its IT sector has seen tremendous growth with many international companies expanding into Ukraine, including Microsoft, Google, Oracle and Samsung who opened R&D facilities in Kyiv. According to Forbes magazine, the current aggressions from Russia have disrupted services from 70,000 – 100,000 highly qualified workers, including many with digital engineering and IT skills.

As an emerging nation, and even though it is one of the poorest nations in Europe by Gross Domestic Product per capita, Ukraine has invested in its scientific endeavors. It has a USD $571M Gross Domestic Expenditure on R&D and has seen advancement in several fields including computer science, physics, chemistry, engineering and more.

Infused by international investments, Ukraine saw significant advancements in its renewable energy with total investments amounting to $3.99 billion. In 2021, the World Bank approved $200 million to support the Ukrainian Higher Education system via the Ukraine Improving Higher Education for Results Project, and in 2020, Ukraine climbed five places in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ratings.

 

Scientific innovation in Ukraine, by the numbers

Increased investments in Ukraine’s science, technology and education can also be seen through the scientific publishing lens.

Using InCites Benchmarking and Analytics™, we first looked at Ukraine’s overall scientific output on macro, meso and micro levels.  As can be seen from Figure 1, between 2017-2021, Ukraine’s research output focused on macro topics such as physics (19%), clinical and life sciences (16%), chemistry (16%), social sciences (12%), engineering and material sciences (10%), and electrical engineering (10%) with a total of 52,618 papers published.

 

Figure 1: Macro level topics 2017-2021 publications

Source: InCites™

 

On a meso level, in physics, we see publications in areas of particles and fields and superconductor; metallurgical engineering mechanic in engineering; synthesis and nanoparticles in chemistry and more.

 

Figure 2: Meso level topics 2017-2021 publications

Source: InCites™

 

Finally, on a micro level, we see scientific output from Ukraine on topics in physics such as Tokamak, a machine that confines a plasma using magnetic fields. Ukrainian research also covered the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), the second highest-energy heavy-ion collider in the world. The RHIC is located at Brookhaven laboratory in the United States used by an international team of researchers.

The Plasma Nitriding process, another focus of Ukrainian research papers in physics, is used to increase wear resistance, surface hardness and fatigue by creating a hard layer including compressive stresses. Chemistry and engineering-related topics include graphene, phosphors and more (see Figure 3).

 

Figure 3: Micro level topics 2017-2021 publications

Source: InCites™

 

Ukraine’s breakthrough research areas

Next, we examined innovation in Ukraine by analyzing the country’s contributions to the global Research Fronts. A Research Front is a group of highly cited papers in a specialized topic defined by cluster analysis, which you can read more about here. In short, Research Fronts demonstrate topical, promising and emerging research areas, and themselves can become an object of study.

We retrieved Ukraine’s publications from 2017 and mapped them to the Research Fronts™ citations topics. Our analysis shows that Ukrainian research is contributing to several key Research Fronts.

 

Computer science and artificial intelligence

In the computer science and artificial intelligence category, we tracked 251 papers led by Ukrainian researchers. This may be the result of the country’s substantial investment in artificial intelligence in 2020 given Ukraine had the largest number of AI companies in Eastern Europe at the time—alongside the success of billion-dollar Ukrainian startups such as Grammarly and GitLab. These articles were published by leading institutions across the country including The Ministry of Education Science of Ukraine, LVIV Polytech National University and The National Academy of Sciences to name just a few. Figure 4 demonstrates the steady increase in Ukraine’s artificial intelligence related papers since 2017. Unfortunately, recent events have crippled the progress of research and there were only 11 papers published in this area in 2022 so far.

 

Figure 4: Ukraine’s output growth in computer science and artificial intelligence since 2017.

Source: Web of Science™

 

Engineering, electrical and electronics research

In the engineering, electrical and electronic category, we tracked 89 papers on electric vehicles research. According to market research, Ukraine’s electric car market has shown significant growth in recent years. Between 2018 and 2020, the number of electric cars grew by 375% and research has responded to that market growth since 2017. This aligns with the global trend: electric vehicles are predicted to account for more than half of all global car sales by 2040.

 

Figure 5: Publications growth on electric vehicles since 2017.

Source: Web of Science™

 

What stood out in COVID-19 research?

Among its many contributions to science, Ukraine’s researchers published more than 770 papers related to COVID-19 since 2020. We analyzed the titles and abstracts of these documents and revealed an array of topics within this research area. Figure 6 is a word cloud of the most frequent words that occur in the abstracts and titles. It demonstrates the breadth of Ukraine’s research on COVID-19 including papers about education and students, economic conditions, research methods and international and European impact.

 

Source: Web of Science™ and https://www.wordclouds.com/

 

Conclusions

Ukraine has a rich research history and makes significant contributions to the global scientific effort, especially by progressing multiple Research Fronts. In the past decade, the country has seen tremendous growth in domestic and foreign investments in research and development. From computer science and IT to education, alternative energy and more, it is the preferred destination for many investors. Such investment has enabled Ukraine to develop the infrastructure needed for sustainable, efficient technologies and processes. This, in turn, supports economic development and human well-being, which is a target of the UN’s ninth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG: 9), Industry, innovation and infrastructure.

Its scientific research arena has blossomed through rapid growth of scientific papers in the past five years as well, which is the result of expedited Ukrainian research across several scientific disciplines such as engineering, computer science, physics and chemistry. Ukraine’s contribution to COVID-19 research is also significant, with research spanning across medicine, social sciences and education. Unfortunately but unsurprisingly, the continued aggressions from Russia have sadly halted this progress with a low number of papers published in 2022.

Clarivate has recently launched a resource center that provides a package of software tools, information and insights for displaced researchers in Ukraine. You can also read the first post in our series highlighting the contribution from Ukraine to the global research effort, here.

 

About the author

Gali Halevi is Director at the Institute for Scientific Information. Previously she was Associate Dean of Libraries & Information Sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the Mount Sinai Health System. She has a background in bibliometrics and has worked in academic publishing and as an information specialist for pharmaceutical and financial companies.

ORCiD 0000-0003-1967-4147 ; Web of Science ResearchID AAD-2257-2021