EU’s top corporate investors ‘will increase R&D spend’

The European Union’s (EU’s) leading corporate investors are to increase investment in research and development (R&D), according to the sixth EU Survey on R&D Investment Business Trends.

According to a statement, companies surveyed expect their R&D investment inside the EU to grow three per cent a year over the next three years. Although this rate is lower than the growth expected for their R&D investment in other world regions, the companies still expect to locate 75 per cent of their investments in the EU.

The largest percentage increases in R&D investment are expected in China (25 per cent), Japan (17 per cent), other European countries (eight per cent), India (eight per cent) and the US and Canada (five per cent).

This trend — said to be the same in three out of four previous surveys — shows that EU-based companies want to benefit from the growth in emerging economies while still retaining a strong overall focus on the EU. This is confirmed by the companies’ figures for nominal R&D investment amounts, which are set to increase by €2.2bn (£1.9bn) over the next three years in the EU and €2.7bn outside the EU.

Top factors indicated as having a positive effect on innovation were the availability of qualified personnel and of public support such as grants and fiscal incentives. Collaboration with other entities, such as higher-education institutions, was also seen as important.

Factors perceived as negative for all sectors were enforcement costs of intellectual property rights (IPR) and the time needed to obtain IPR protection.

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, commissioner for research, innovation and science, said: ‘The survey provides welcome positive economic news and grounds for cautious medium-term optimism, given that business R&D is a key driver of sustainable growth and jobs.

‘But if we are to achieve our Europe 2020 targets, including getting R&D investment in the EU up to three per cent of GDP, we will need these forecast investments for 2011–13 to be delivered in practice.

‘We will also need further increases in the rate of growth of private R&D investment in subsequent years, both by the big companies covered in this survey and by SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises]. And we will need to deliver an Innovation Union in Europe so that investing in R&D here is more attractive than doing so elsewhere.’