Research, Innovation and Science

R&D and the economic crisis; top EU firms cut investment less than US rivals, but Europe still well behind

The European Commission's 2010 "EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard" shows that R&D investment by top EU companies fell by 2.6% in 2009, even though sales and profits fell much more, by 10.1% and 21.0% respectively. The fall in R&D investment by leading players in the US, at 5.1%, was twice as sharp as in the EU, but the worldwide reduction was lower, at 1.9%. Japanese firms maintained their level of investment. Companies based elsewhere in Asia - China, India, Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan - continued the high R&D growth seen in previous years. Japanese car maker Toyota is the world's biggest R&D investor (€6.8bn) for the second consecutive year. Three EU companies feature in the top ten: Volkswagen, the biggest investor based in Europe with €5.8bn, Nokia and Sanofi-Aventis. The Scoreboard covers the top 1400 companies worldwide.

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science said: "The fact that major EU firms have largely maintained their R&D investment shows that they recognise R&D as key to emerging stronger from the crisis. But the wide gap with the top US companies in areas like software and biotechnology and the continuing rapid rise of Asian-based companies highlight the innovation emergency Europe is facing. We urgently need heads of state and government at the December European Council to back the Innovation Union proposals that Antonio Tajani and I announced on 6 October."

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