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EU companies match US on R&D spending rise, scoreboard reports

Europe’s industry kept pace with US spending on research and development in 2011, increasing overall spending R&D spend by 8.9 per cent compared to 2010.

This means European firms topped the global average industrial R&D spending increase of 7.6 per cent. US firms increased spending on research and development by 9 per cent.

The EU’s 8.9 per cent increase for 2011 is greater than the increase in 2008, before the financial crisis, which was 8.1 per cent. In 2009, R&D spending by industry dipped by 2.6 per cent, but it went up by 6.1 per cent in 2010.

The data are published in the European Commission’s 2012 EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard, out yesterday (6 December 2012). The scoreboard looked at the 1,500 companies worldwide that spend the most on research and development. Together they account for close to 90 per cent of global research and development spending.

Of the 1,500 companies, 405 are based in the EU. They spent €144.6 billion on research and development in 2011, accounting for 29 per cent of the scoreboard companies’ total spending. Total global R&D spending was €510.7bn.

According to the scoreboard, EU firms spent most of their R&D funding on automobiles, followed by pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, and technology hardware. Globally, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology topped the list, followed by technology hardware and then automobiles.

Germany hosts 108 of all European companies in the scoreboard. This is followed by the UK with 81 companies and then France with 58. German-based Volkswagen and Daimler are the EU’s top-spending companies, with Volkswagen ranked third worldwide. Finland’s Nokia, France’s Sanofi, and the UK’s GlaxoSmithKline round out the EU’s top five.

The 26 scoreboard companies in Sweden and 14 in Spain showed the highest increases in R&D spending in 2011 with over 14 per cent in Sweden.

“Companies are increasing investment in R&D, not in spite of the crisis, but because of it,” said Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, the research commissioner. “They know that, for them, it’s a matter of survival.”

She added: “EU leaders need the same realisation”, referring to Horizon 2020, the Commission’s proposal for EU research funding in 2014-2020, which member states want to cut.