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R&D spending to stagnate in Europe?

17-May-2005

The first ever survey of research and development (R&D) personnel across all industrial sectors in Europe reveals most participants predict there will be little change in their companies' R&D investment levels over the next five years, and perhaps even a slight decrease, reports CORDIS.

The EU-funded survey of 1000 participants set out to understand the key motivations and working conditions of industrial researchers in Europe; and to collect suggestions for increasing the competitiveness of Europe's industrial R&D.

With regards to competitiveness, up to 70 per cent of researchers said they would be happy to participate in working groups to improve the European Research Area, claims the report.

Although, it adds, some comments made by participants indicate that individual understanding of the European Research Area concept "is still vague".

On motivation and working conditions of industrial research personnel, the results show that when it comes to mobility, slightly more respondents (70 per cent) would be willing to move abroad than move to another location in the same country (66 per cent), provided it is their company that suggests the move.

Raising hopes that the 'brain drain' to the US could be tailing off, the preferred locations for international assignments are EU15 countries, followed by Switzerland and Norway, and then locations such as the US, Canada and Australia.

On the subject of start-up activity, the majority of respondents said they would be willing to work for an early-stage venture, but were far less inclined to create a start-up themselves due to the financial risks involved and their lack of administrative skills.

"There is a certain lack of confidence with regards to attracting venture capital or credits," says the report .

Keeping R&D personnel happy is essential for firms across all industries to ensure that innovation, the key to competitiveness, is ongoing.

In the food industry increasing pressure on innovation to sustain growth means food firms need to pour resources into their R&D departments. At the ingredients end, suppliers in Europe appear to invest between about 2.8 per cent and 12.9 per cent of their sales on R&D.

The food makers are spending less percentage wise, between 0.5 and 1.5 per cent. In its year end results Nestle recently cited R&D costs up 0.3 per cent to 1.6 per cent of sales, or CHF1.4 billion on total turnover of CHF 87 billion.

But overall, and despite the report findings, recent figures on research and development (R&D) expenditure from Europe's statistic's gathering body Eurostat show that overall investment is now nudging the two per cent mark.

In 2002, R&D expenditure accounted for 1.93 per cent of GDP in the EU 25 - an increase of 0.11 per cent since 1998. The overall increase is not huge, but a number of countries have seen a significant growth in investment.

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