EU research spending inches towards two per cent of GDP

February 27, 2004

Brussels, 26 Feb 2004

New figures released on 25 February reveal that EU spending on research and development (R&D) as a proportion of its GDP increased by just 0.01 per cent between 2001 and 2002.

'Statistics on science and technology in Europe', published by Eurostat and the Commission's DG Research, show that while R&D investments have almost reached the landmark figure of two per cent of GDP, the gap in research spending between the EU and its biggest competitors, and indeed the Barcelona target, remains significant.

The total EU expenditure on R&D in 2002 is estimated at 1.99 per cent of GDP, up from 1.98 per cent in 2001. Figures for 2000 show that the US spent 2.8 per cent of its GDP on research, while Japan was even further ahead at 2.98 per cent. The EU has until 2010 to meet the target of three per cent that it set itself at the Barcelona Council in 2002.

While 2002 data are not yet available individually for most EU countries, it is nevertheless possible to identify the likely cause of the EU's slow rate of progress as a whole. Even though countries such as Finland, which increased its R&D investments from 3.40 percent of GDP in 2001 to 3.49 per cent in 2002, continue to make progress, those countries that account for the largest proportion of research expenditure in Europe have not done so well.

In 2001, nearly two thirds of the EU's total investments in R&D came from three countries: Germany (52 billion euro), France (33 billion euro) and the UK (30 billion euro). These latest figures, however, show that French research spending as a proportion of GDP fell from 2.23 per cent in 2001 to 2.20 per cent in 2002, while the UK dropped from 1.89 per cent to 1.84 per cent in the same period. In overall terms, these apparently small setbacks more than cancel out the progress achieved in smaller EU countries such as Finland.

The acceding countries face an even greater challenge according to the report, which reveals that the overall proportion of R&D spending in the new Member States stood at just 0.84 per cent in 2001. Slovenia and the Czech Republic displayed the highest intensity of R&D expenditure, investing 1.52 per cent and 1.33 per cent of GDP respectively. The lowest level was observed in Cyprus, where research spending languishes at 0.26 per cent of overall income.

The report also contains figures on the global trade in high tech products in 2001. These reveal that with high tech exports totalling 196 billion euro, although the EU lags behind the US on 234 billion euro, it is ahead of Japan's 111 billion euro worth of exports. However, when these figures are compared with statistics for high tech imports, the EU is shown to have the biggest net deficit (-23 billion euro) while Japan has the largest surplus (+39 billion euro).

Other statistics contained in the report cover R&D personnel, human resources in science and technology, patents, and other indicators related to high tech and knowledge intensive sectors.

For further information on the report, please:
click here

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities

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