Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union has pledged to spend 3.5 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product on research and development by 2025, a promise that would make Germany the biggest R&D investor in the European Union, open up a big gap with the United States, and even overtake Japan.
The CDU, widely expected to emerge as the biggest party in September’s federal election, argues in its new manifesto that “research and innovation are the basis of growth and prosperity”.
Governments have turned their attention to national levels of R&D spending, channelled through universities, research institutes and companies, in the hope that increasing it can yield an economic pay-off.
The UK government has in recent months acknowledged that the country spends too little on R&D – just 1.7 per cent of GDP – and promised an additional £2 billion a year by 2020-21 for industrial research challenges in order to turn around Britain’s lack of economic productivity.
But even these additional resources will still only increase the UK’s R&D investment level to 2 per cent at best. Germany currently invests 3 per cent, the CDU manifesto says.
The US spends 2.8 per cent; Japan fractionally under 3.5 per cent; and China 2.1 per cent, according to 2015 data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Germany’s huge networks of research institutes – such as the Max Planck Society – and its central funding organisation, the Germany Research Foundation, are guaranteed a 3 per cent rise in funding every year until 2020.
The CDU manifesto also pledges at least €2 billion (£1.8 billion) for research, focused on small- and medium-sized firms, which it says will help the country attract top researchers from across the world.
It adds that the government will focus on the research and application of artificial intelligence, quantum computers, robotics and big data, as well as on medical breakthroughs in cancer, diabetes and dementia.