Cough up cash so best minds thrive

July 30, 2004

The UK is not alone in trying to find the best way to fund and carry out research. The Times Higher looks at how other countries are tackling the problem.

Outgoing European Union research commissioner Philippe Busquin has spent two years cajoling members into making real progress towards the goal they set in Barcelona two years ago - to spend 3 per cent of gross domestic product on research and development by 2010, two thirds of it from the private sector.

In 2000, the then member states of the EU spent an average of 1.9 per cent of GDP, and hitting the target implies an annual growth rate of 6 per cent for state spending and 9 per cent for private investment.

But, behind the crude figures, there are tensions over the best structures for achieving this growth. Should research be organised around universities or through centralised agencies such as the Max Planck Institutes in Germany? Can universities respond quickly enough to the demands of industry? Are the centralised institutes too isolated from other disciplines with which interaction could be fruitful?

Ministers are concerned that existing research structures lack flexibility - there is too little mobility between member states, between the EU and the rest of the world and particularly between the state research sector and private industry.

This debate is not confined to the EU. In Russia and Japan, govern-ments are seeking to streamline structures. In the People's Republic of China there are signs that research institutes will be given greater licence to strike out on their own.

Times Higher reporters examine the progress made towards increased and more effective research spending.

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