US universities and research jobs are attracting growing numbers of European Union researchers, according to a European Commission report on the continuing transatlantic "brain-drain".
Highly qualified Britons are most likely to emigrate. In a comparative study of the 26,000-plus US visas issued to EU emigrants in 2001 on the basis of their professional education and skills, 9,683 went to Britons, compared with 4,202 to Germans and 4,151 to French citizens.
The EC paper voiced concern that 75 per cent of EU-born US doctorate recipients who graduated between 1991 and 2000 had "no specific plans to return to the EU, and more and more are choosing to stay in the US".
It added: "The most important reasons keeping EU-born scientists and engineers abroad relate to the quality of work. Better prospects and projects, and easier access to leading technologies were most often cited as reasons behind plans to work abroad."
The report also highlights concerns about commercial research expenditure, indicating that the US attracts one-third more research and development expenditure from EU companies than US companies allocate to the EU.
"This implies that, for 2000 alone, there was a net outflow of nearly E5 billion (£3.5 billion) of European R&D investment, mainly to the advantage of the US research system," said the paper.
While recent figures from the US Office of Immigration Statistics indicate a slump in skilled immigration post-September 11 2001, the EC paper indicates that this may be no more than a short-term blip.
"The likely shortage of highly qualified science and technology personnel in R&D, anticipated over the next ten to 15 years, represents one of the biggest threats to Europe's long-term innovative strength," it says.
* Temporary worker visas for jobs in science and technology fell by 55 per cent in the year after September 11 2001, and all successful visa applications fell to 6.5 million in the 2003 fiscal year from 10 million in the 2001 fiscal year.