European scientists continue to be strong in areas such as medical research and chemistry and Europe may produce the highest number of science graduates but it is lagging behind in biotechnology, still employs fewer researchers, accounts for a decreasing number of patents and continues to witness the 'brain drain', finds a new report released today by the European Commission.
The Third European Report on Science & Technology (S&T) Indicators 2003 highlights the fact that the EU is still investing much less than its main competitors in research, and the difference is increasing.
"This is not just a study it is a policy tool," said European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin. "It will enable European leaders in research and innovation to monitor their progress. Increasingly, our researchers look first to the US before considering what is available for them here in Europe. To address our shortcomings and build on our strengths, we must first focus on the benefits that Europe has to offer," he continued.
According to the report Europe's performance in terms of high-tech trade is deteriorating: the trade deficit in high-tech products has grown from €9 billion in 1995 to €48 billion in 2000.
Europe is lagging behind in the biotechnology revolution and although it has a larger scientific production than the US in the field of biotechnology, European firms are weak when it comes to patenting and commercialisation, states the report. In Europe, where EU companies can be expected to have a home-advantage, European firms account for 27.8 per cent of patent applications, whereas US firms account for a considerably higher 51.9 per cent.
On a more positive note, in the field of nanotechnology - an emerging key technology - Europe is currently performing well in terms of scientific production and even in terms of patenting: the EU-15 and EFTA together account for 39 per cent of European and world nanotech patents, compared to 45 per cent for the US and Canada.
In terms of overall technological performance, over the last decade Europe's share of patent applications at the European Patent Office (EPO) and patents granted at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has declined, although it appears to have stabilised in the last few years, continues the report. The situation, highlights the Commission, is worse concerning high tech patents.
Turning to investment, the Commission report underlines the worrying fact that the EU is spending much less on R&D (in 2000, 1.94 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product) than its main competitors, the US (2.80 per cent) and Japan (2.98 per cent). Moreover, this 'investment gap' has continued to widen since the mid-1990s. The EU-US divide has mushroomed, in terms of purchasing power, from €43 billion in 1994 to €83 billion in 2000.
According to the report, the investment gap is mainly due to the low contribution of the private sector, which represents in Europe only 56 per cent of the total financing of research, against more than two-thirds in the US and Japan.
Further information about the report can be obtained from the Commission website.