Brussels, 15 Oct 2003
The EU's statistics division reports on how well the Union is faring compared with its main competitors in government research and development (R&D) spending.
Budget spending on R&D in the European Union has been relatively stable compared with its more aggressive competitors in the USA and Japan, according to the European Commission.
In its recently published study on government R&D allocations (not actual spending), The Commission estimates that, in 2002, governments of the EU-15 set aside a total budget of over €69 billion for R&D, or 0.75% of the Union's gross domestic product (GDP) - which compares favourably with 0.71% in Japan and 0.94% in the USA. However, the EU results are not evenly spread across the Member States.
Six EU countries - Iceland, France, Finland, Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands - reported higher than average 'government budget appropriations or outlays on R&D' (GBAORD) as a percentage of GDP. In contrast, three Member States' GBAORD ratios were below the 0.75% average. These were Luxembourg (0.20%), Greece (0.28%) and Ireland (0.33%). The remaining EU states' ratios ranged between 0.58% in Belgium and 0.74% in Norway which, although not an EU member, was included for comparison.
Measuring up to the competition
After a period of stalled GBAORD growth in the EU from 1992 to 1997, EU efforts to stimulate government R&D spending started to pay dividends: between 1997 and 2002, R&D budgets rose at an annual average rate of 4.4% (in nominal terms). Again, there were big differences between the Member States: most notably, Greece which recorded high average annual growth (17.9%) between 1992 and 1997, but trailed off in the latter part of the ten-year reporting period.
Looking at GBAORD as a percentage of total general government expenditure, Iceland, Finland and France topped the list in 2002 with 2.48%, 2.02% and 1.92% respectively. These countries also had the highest GBAORD per GDP ratios.
In its July report, 'Statistics in Focus: Science and Technology', the EU's statistics service provides the full results of the comparative study, including tables and figures. The report also presents the GBAORD results per country broken down by socio-economic objectives, including 'exploration and exploitation of earth (and space)', 'social structures and relationships', 'industrial production and technology', 'research financed from general university funds (GUF)' and 'defence'.
'Defence' takes up a substantial part (15.4%) of the EU total GBAORD, mainly due to the contributions of Spain, France, Sweden and the UK. But it falls way short of the massive contribution to defence research by the USA (54.0%). In the EU, 'Research financed from GUF' was the largest socio-economic objective, making up a considerable 32.4% of total GBAORD. This is comparable to Japan's 34.9% in the same period.