European Union research commissioner Philippe Busquin is pressing for Brussels' total research spending to be doubled by the end of the decade from about €5 billion (£3.45 billion) a year to more than E10 billion.
Mr Busquin claimed he had the support of Romano Prodi, the European Commission president, for the increase. This would lead to Brussels commanding 10 per cent of EU public research spending, allowing it to better exploit the "critical mass" of large projects.
Mr Busquin pointed to the Barcelona objectives, under which the EU's total research spending, including national and private funds, achieves 3 per cent of gross domestic product to enable Europe to compete with the US and Japan.
"Our objective is 1 per cent for public research and 2 per cent for private research," Mr Busquin said. This compares with current levels of 0.75 per cent (public spending) and 1.15 per cent (private). To achieve this goal, total research spending in the EU had to be increased by 8 per cent a year, Mr Busquin said - 6 per cent for the public and 9 per cent for the private sector.
Meanwhile, the commission has released a policy paper committing it to increasing spending on basic non-market-oriented research. The paper says public discussions will be held this year on increasing basic research, focusing on setting up a European research council dedicated to promoting pure science.