Brussels, 13 May 2003
Italy may face difficulties in reaching the Barcelona target of spending three per cent of GDP on research and development (R&D) by 2010, claims Giorgio Sirilli, Research Director at the institute for studies on scientific research and documentation at Italy's national research council (CNR-ISRDS).
According to Mr Sirilli's calculations, the public sector would have to grow at a rate of nine per cent annually, while the private sector would have to reach a growth of 18 per cent per annum to reach the target set by EU governments in 2002.
Mr Sirilli suggests that this scenario is beyond reach, considering that official statistics show that spending on research and development has dropped from 1.07 per cent in 2000 to 1.04 per cent in 2002. He adds that the decrease in spending is also coupled with structural factors, such as insufficient human resources, a small high-tech industry and constraints imposed by a lack of public spending.
However, with greater investment at public and private level, as well as a salary increase for researchers, Mr Sirilli claims the situation could improve and that the ratio could grow to 1.6 per cent by 2010.
In an effort to address the governance of scientific research and boost R&D spending, the Italian government has defined a set of science and technology (S&T) guidelines. The guidelines are based on the national research plan 2003-2006, as well as wide consultation with all actors in the Italian research system: the scientific community, universities, public research bodies, enterprises and trade unions.
Through the implementation of these guidelines, the Italian government aims to increase public investment in research to one per cent of GDP. This would mean an increase in public investment of over 14 million euro in the period 2003 to 2006. The Italian government is confident that the increased public expenditure will automatically determine greater private investment, thus paving the way to attaining the Barcelona objective and revitalising the national research infrastructure.