EU looks to match US investment in R&D
The European Commission has announced a strategy to raise research and development spending to 3 percent of GDP, up from the current EU average of 1.9 percent.
"Higher investment in science and technology is key for Europe's future," said EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin in a statement. "In the current economic downturn, we need even more R&D investment to seed innovations that will bring about growth and employment tomorrow."
Busquin pointed out that the US spent EUR288 billion on research and development in 2000, in contrast to the EUR164 billion that was spent in the EU. The Commissioner also said he thought the funding gap was widening.
The Commission plans focus upon providing training for researchers, strengthen links between the public and private research sectors, implement appropriate intellectual property rights and create a "culture of entrepreneurship" in order to attract business investment in R&D.
Finland and Sweden were the only countries where R&D spending as a percentage of GDP exceeds the requirements, with percentages of 3.7 and 3.8 percent respectively. R&D expenditure as a percentage of GDP exceeds 2 percent in Denmark, Germany, France and the Netherlands. Ireland ranked eighth on the list of EU nations, but with R&D expenditure at only 1.2 percent of GDP, the Republic is falling woefully short of the EU's new targets.
The Commission also seeks to raise the level of private R&D funding to 66 percent of total R&D funding, from its current average level of 55 percent. The two-thirds figure has already been attained by the USA and Japan.
Belgium, Germany, Finland and Sweden were the only countries where private R&D investment is greater than the 66 percent mark, and Ireland is the only other country where private R&D exceeds 60 percent of total R&D spending, the report said.
The survey comes just over a week after the Irish government announced new funding of over EUR30 million to 13 research projects in the bio-tech and ICT sectors. Six of the awards, totalling over EUR17 million, were awarded to researchers investigating ICT. The Science Foundation Ireland, which is responsible for administering the EUR635 million Technology Foresight Fund, is currently funding research projects in Ireland to a total of almost EUR100 million.
But the EU's new drive for increased research and development spend among member nations also follows a new report from IBEC subdivision ICT Ireland, which warned that Ireland could be at risk of falling behind competitor nations, if high-tech R&D is not supported.