Three mega trends are currently shaping the global research landscape. Total investment in research has increased substantially. A number of new, strong research nations are gaining ground rapidly. China is about to take the lead role in global research.
As a whole, the EU area is less research intensive today than either the USA or China. A number of measures are required if we are to avoid a European knowledge crisis. The most important one is to close the research gap between Europe and the rest of the world. A high-cost economy must also be a high-tech economy. Halving the EU’s agricultural and regional subsidies would free up resources which would help improve Europe’s position significantly.
Europe is home to many world-leading and research-intensive companies, but as a whole, the business sector is less research intensive than in the USA, China and Japan. This is a major concern. The size and geographical flows of business investments are, perhaps, the best indicator of a country’s or a region’s ability to compete in the knowledge economy. The reason for this is simple: international companies prefer to focus research where they believe the opportunities are best.
The EU’s research programme should include strong incentives for increased enterprise in Europe. An innovation premium could be trialled in the European research system, by rewarding research organisations which adopt a proactive approach to utilising research results.
Europe has too few top-class universities. Consequently, the EU should focus its research policy on increased quality and relevance. An elite programme aimed at young, promising European researchers is of particular importance, since it would provide support for the stars of the future.