OECD Report: European efforts to close the innovation gap have not yet borne tangible fruit

March 19, 2003

Brussels, 18 Mar 2003

A recent OECD report reveals that, although industrialised nations are investing more in research, European efforts to close the innovation gap with Japan and the United States have not yet borne tangible fruit.

The 30 members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) are, on the whole, devoting more resources to research and development (R&D), a report released by the intergovernmental body reveals. Despite the global economic slowdown, R&D intensity climbed from 2.04% to 2.24% of the OECD's gross domestic product (GDP).

"Investment in and exploitation of knowledge remain key drivers of innovation, economic performance and social well-being," the OECD explained in the report entitled 'Science, Technology and Industry Outlook 2002'. "The emergence of a more networked economy… has helped to improve productivity, chiefly through the generation, diffusion and use of information."

This shift towards closer integration has been accompanied by greater formal and informal research co-operation. "Virtually all forms of collaboration, including co-operative research, public-private partnerships, international and domestic strategic alliances, and foreign direct investment, show signs of increasing," the report notes.

The private sector has accounted for the bulk of the growth in investment, the report showed. Industry financed R&D grew by more than 50% in real terms between 1990 and 2000 and represented 63.9% of total R&D investment in 2000.

The stock of researchers has grown across the OECD, with 6.2 researchers per thousand workers in 2000 compared with 5.6 in 1990. The report points out that mounting demand for science and technology workers is intensifying the competition for top talent, which has led to greater mobility of students, researchers and other highly skilled personnel.

"Not only does international migration help fill gaps, but skilled foreign workers also make significant contributions to innovation and economic growth… [This] tends to aid knowledge transfer rather than act as a brain-drain," the OECD noted.

Edging ahead

Although Sweden and Finland topped the chart of R&D investment, the gap separating the European Union as a whole from Japan and the United States has widened, the OECD noted. In 2000, research swallowed up 3% of Japan's GDP, 2.7% of the United State's and only 1.9% of the EU's.

To bridge this widening divide, European leaders committed themselves to enhancing Europe's research competitiveness in Lisbon in 2000, and last year pledged to step up the Union's investment in R&D to 3% of GDP by 2010.

Yesterday (Monday 17 March) the European Commission released its third 'European Report on Science and Technology Indicators 2003'. The document analyses Europe's strengths and weaknesses in the fields of research and innovation and explores whether the EU is on track to meet its Lisbon competitiveness goals. Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin will highlight the main findings of the document at a press conference in Brussels.

Contact: research@cec.eu.int

More information on this subject:

OECD Science, Technology and Industry Outlook http://www.oecd.org/EN/document/0,,EN-do cument-0-nodirectorate-no-11-35101-0,00. html

Research Press Centre http://europa.eu.int/comm/research/press _en.html

DG Research
http://europa.eu.int/comm/dgs/research/i ndex_en.html

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