Brussels, 11 Nov 2002
Europe must invest more in research if it means to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010, and under-investment in research and human capital by the Member States is casting into doubt the objective set in Lisbon.
This blunt warning was issued by European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin after the publication of new EU science and technology (S&T) indicators on 8 November. The report, entitled 'science, technology and innovation - key figures 2002', provides a comprehensive overview of investment by Member States in the areas of research, education, training, human resources, high-tech capital goods, and computerised public services.
Mr Busquin said: 'Bold declarations are not enough; the commitments must also be put into action.' The results show that while some countries, most notably Denmark, Sweden and Finland, are performing well in terms of overall investment and investment growth, the EU's performance as a whole in these areas is lagging behind. Italy and Spain are told in the report that they 'urgently need to make an extra effort.'
There are also indicators to analyse the EU's performance in its transition to a knowledge-based economy, and these show that whilst Member States' performance in this area is improving more quickly than in the USA, the rate of growth is not sufficiently high to overtake the American economy by 2010.
A further area covered by the report is human resources, particularly with regard to S&T graduates and the overall number of researchers. Worryingly, the indicators show that whilst the EU produces more S&T graduates (including PhDs) than the USA and Japan, both in absolute numbers and as a proportion of its population, this superiority is not reflected in terms of numbers of researchers. As a proportion of its workforce, the European Union has fewer researchers than the USA or Japan, and a slower growth rate means that this gap is increasing.
One of the main challenges that the EU faces in trying to meet its objectives on competitiveness is achieving the target set in Barcelona in 2002 of raising research spending from 1.9 to 3 per cent of GDP. Mr Busquin has stressed repeatedly that this increase will have to come from the private sector, and has called on Member States to introduce measures aimed at stimulating the required investment.
To see a full copy of the report, please consult the following web address: ftp://ftp.cordis.lu/pub/rtd2002/docs/ind_kf2002.pdf