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Research in Europe: More Excellence than Relevance?

Aurora Brief Reviews No. 16 June 31 2020

September 2020

The European Commission has published a 774-page report on the Science Research, and Innovation Performance of the European Union, with a 22-page Executive Summary and an Infographic.

The report shows that the EU is strong in Green Transition (Climate and Bioeconomy) R&I, but has fewer world-leading AI firms than the US or China. In R&D investment, the EU is lagging significantly behind the US, Japan and Korea – and behind its own target of 3% of GDP. This is primarily due to lagging private R&D investments; public R&D investment in the EU (0.72% GDP) is second only to Korea (0,83%) and ahead of the US (0,66%), Japan (0.63%) and China(0.49%).

The report still sees the EU as a global leader in scientific excellence with 23% of the world’s 10% most highly-cited publications – behind the US with 26%. Without Brexit, the EU and the UK together would trump the US (no pun intended) with 29,5% of the worlds 10% most highly cited publications.

Disconcerting is the uneven distribution of research and innovation across Europe: 10% of the EU’s regions account for 50% of all R&D investment. The report has a strong focus on the green transition and the SDGs. It shows how the 17 SDGs which makes the question “What SDG are you researching in?” so much less important than “How may your research (eventually) contribute to the achievement to sustainable development?”.

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