Universities' ability to encourage businesses to invest in research and development is highlighted in a European Commission report that could help higher education institutions seize substantial funding from the European Union's Framework Seven programme.
The European Competitiveness Report 2004 notes that universities are better than government institutions at generating additional private-sector funding.
The report was published during the appointment of a new Commission that is focused on improving EU productivity. Its conclusions will feed into the preparations for the framework programme, which could command €40 billion (£28 billion).
The report says: "An additional €1 billion spent on R&D performed by universities leads to an additional €1.3 billion in industry R&D, while a €1 billion increase in R&D performed by government institutions leads to an additional €1.1 billion in industry."
It adds that studies on research spending among EU and other developed country regions "suggest that expenditure on R&D in the higher education sector significantly stimulates growth of gross domestic product". The effect of university research is greater than the income share it now receives, "indicating substantial spillover effects".
One specific achievement noted in the report was that collaborative ventures between universities and industry seemed to speed up the practical exploitation of technology protected by patents.
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