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Finland and Sweden lead way towards target for research and development | 06.04.04

Finland and Sweden have already attained a European Union target for expenditure on research and development despite having relatively low levels of public investment, according to a report published today (6 April 2004) by the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC).

A study by EASAC for the European Parliament Industry Committee has shown that Finland and Sweden already spend 3.4 and 4.3%, respectively, of Gross Domestic Product on research and development, higher than the target of 3% to be achieved by the European Union by 2010. But Sweden is bottom and Finland is third from bottom in the EU league table of relative public spending on research and development.

EASAC, which includes representatives from 16 national science academies, carried out case studies on expenditure on research and development in selected Member States after the European Council of Ministers at its summit in Barcelona in 2002 set a target that overall spending on R&D and innovation in the Union should be increased with the aim of approaching 3% of GDP by 2010. The declaration stated that two-thirds of the new investment should come from the private sector. Overall expenditure in the European Union at that time was about 1.9% of GDP.

Professor Uno Lindberg, chair of EASAC, said: This study shows that other European Union countries can learn much from the examples set by Finland and Sweden. Those lessons are primarily about how to create an environment that encourages business to invest more in research and development.

The EASAC report concludes that two main factors have allowed Finland and Sweden to attain the fastest-growing and highest relative expenditures on research and development:

  • an explicit and consistent commitment to prioritising public expenditure on research and development; and
  • a high-powered national policy on research and development that included major industrial concerns.

The report points out that the commitment by Finland to public expenditure on research and development was maintained even when the country experienced a financial crisis. An additional factor in Sweden has been the policy to allow the value of the Krona to float, which has reduced costs for companies based there.

Professor Lindberg said: Even in large countries with a diverse industrial base, the situation can change quickly because companies that invest in research are looking out constantly across the world for the best partners with whom to collaborate and the best locations to carry out their own research and development.

The EASAC study showed that Finland and Sweden also lead the European Union in patent applications per capita. Professor Lindberg said: It is apparent from the number of patent applications in Finland and Sweden that an effective system of intellectual property rights is central to promoting industrial investment in research and development. However, the regime for intellectual property rights in Europe is regarded as inferior not only to those in the USA and Japan but also, increasingly, those in China and India.

NOTES FOR EDITORS

1 The European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) was established in 2001 to provide a means for the national academies of Europe to work together to inject high quality science into European Union policy-making. Its task is building science into policy at EU level by providing independent, expert, credible advice about the scientific aspects of public policy issues to those who make or influence policy for the EU. EASAC is designed to combine ease and speed of operation, with the unrivalled prestige and authority of the national academies of science and with the opportunities that come from ready access to the networks of members and colleagues that constitute academies. For further information about EASAC, see its website at :

http://www.easac.org

For further information about this news release, contact:
Bob Ward on 020-7451 2516 or 07811-320346.