Europe is a global scientific powerhouse. It has all the necessary ingredients to shape a prosperous and safe future but it suffers a growth deficit which is fuelling social disenchantment, according to a report “Lab-Fab-App: Investing in the European Future We Want” just launched by the European Union.
- 1.8 million researchers working in thousands of universities and research centres as well as in world-leading manufacturing industries
- a suite of increasingly inter-connected research infra-structures
- a thriving ecosystem of small and medium-sized enterprises and an increasing number of hotspots for start-ups
- with just 7% of the world’s population and 24% of global GDP, it produces around 30 % of the world’s scientific publications
But compared to other major economies, Europe suffers from a growth deficit which, together with the experience of uneven progress, fuels social disenchantment and political divisions across the continent.
At the heart of Europe’s slow growth lies its innovation deficit. Europe does not capitalise enough on the knowledge it has and produces. The EU trails well behind many trading partners when it comes to innovation.
- It spends less than half as much on business R&D as a share of GDP compared to South Korea and the share of value added in high-tech manufacturing is half the South Korean average.
- The EU produces three times less quality patent applications than Japan.
- The amount of venture capital available in the EU is at least five times lower than in the US
- The number of fast-growing start-ups, so-called unicorns, is equally five times lower
- The EU lags behind in investing in intangibles (40 % compared to 60 % in the US)
The report calls for action
- Double the budget of the post-2020 EU research and innovation programme.
- Promote and invest in innovative ideas with rapid scale-up potential through a European Innovation Council
- Foster ecosystems for researchers, innovators, industries and governments
- Design the EU R&I programme for greater impact
- Set research and innovation missions that address global challenges and mobilise researchers, innovators and other stakeholders to realise them.
- Cut the number of R&I funding schemes and instruments, make those remaining reinforce each other and make synergy with other programmes work
- Privilege impact over process with funding programmes
- Make international R&I cooperation a trademark of EU research and innovation
- Capture and better communicate impact
The contribution of the UK to the innovation landscape was recognised.
It states: Whatever Brexit modalities are agreed between the UK and the EU by 2019, full and continued engagement with the UK within the post-2020 EU R&I programme remains an obvious win-win for the UK and the EU. The UK has one of the strongest science bases of all European countries. A positive cooperation model (e.g., based on mutual investment) should be established, so that the UK remains part of the European Research Area.