The field of research presents new challenges for the European Union

How the European Union is tackling its objective

R&D investment data in Europe for the year 2021 has recently been published. The total investment of the European Union ( EU) in research and development was 331 billion euros, which is 6.9% more than the previous year. If the data is compared to 2011, the increase in investment is much more significant, 45%.The data offered by the EU also analyzes spending intensity, that is, R&D spending as a percentage of GDP. In 2021 the intensity was 2.30%, slightly lower than in 2020. This figure is justified by the increase in GDP in 2021 after the significant drop in 2020 due to the pandemic. Belgium is in the lead, with 3.43%, followed by Sweden (3.40%) and Austria (3.26%).

At the European level, R&D spending in relation to GDP is below great powers such as South Korea, the United States or Japan. EUROSTAT also offers information about the sectors that invest the most in R&D. In 2021, the business sector represented 65.95% of total R&D spending. This percentage translates into 218,320 million euros. After the business sector is higher education, with 21.76%, the government sector with 11.64%, and finally, the private non-profit sector with 0.65%.

For years, the European Union’s objective has been to bring investment in research into line with that of its main competitors. A challenge that, as the data reflects, has not yet been achieved. To achieve this, the EU has the European Research Area through which it seeks to create a common area in the EU for research, innovation and technology. Established in 2000, its objective has since been to strengthen Europe’s scientific and technological base, improve its global competitiveness and address common challenges such as the green and digital transition or public health.

Currently, the main funding fund for the European Research Area is the Horizon Europe framework program, the flagship of research and innovation for the period 2021-2027. The successor to the Horizon 2020 program has a budget of 95,517 million euros to finance innovative projects that contribute to the resolution of global challenges. In December 2022, the Commission announced an investment of around €13.5 billion in the period 2023-2024 aimed at supporting researchers and innovators in Europe who are working to find revolutionary solutions to technological, environmental, energy, digital and geopolitical, promote the European innovation ecosystem, and the exchange of research personnel, and expand participation and strengthen the European Research space. In summary, although investment in R&D in the European Union has increased, it still does not reach the main world powers. The intensity of R&D spending is an area for improvement, and the EU is working to catch up globally. The Horizon Europe program demonstrates its commitment to research and innovation. The new financing and evaluation methodologies promise equity and quality in the financing of research projects. The EU is making progress but faces challenges in its pursuit of excellence in research and innovation globally.

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