Notícia publicada a Cordis el 20 de novembre de 2006

The UK attracts the most foreign research investment in Europe; but foreign affiliates play a much greater role than domestic firms in research and development (R&D) in smaller EU Member States. These are some of the main findings of a recently published report by Eurostat, the EU’s statistical office.
Internationalisation plays a key role in many economic activities, including R&D. However, determining the level of internationalisation is difficult since national statistical indicators generally relate to ‘home’ activities only. The Eurostat publication tries to shed light on internationalisation of R&D from several perspectives, using a different set of indicators.

One of the indicators used is the level of R&D investment by countries other than the home country. Here, Malta, Austria and Latvia lead with more than 20% of their gross expenditure on R&D (GERD) coming from foreign investment, while in Slovakia and Finland, foreign investment accounted for just 3% approximately.

However, taking the absolute figures for gross R&D expenditure (including total business expenditure) financed from abroad, the UK seems to be the most attractive destination by far. There, foreign investment amounted to €5.8 billion in 2003, though France and Germany followed hot on the UK’s heels with €2.9 billion and €1.2 billion respectively.

The report also measures the degree of R&D internationalisation by activities undertaken by foreign companies. It finds that in small and open economies, foreign companies generally play a more prominent role in R&D than their national counterparts. For instance, in Ireland and Hungary, the share of industrial of R&D by foreign companies represents approximately 80% compared to Japan, where the share is below 3%.

Another way to measure internationalisation of R&D is to look at foreign involvement in patenting activities. Statistics from the European Patent Office reveal that inventors resident in small countries are more inclined to lodge patent applications jointly with co-inventors from other countries. Nearly half of the patent applications from Slovakia are submitted in collaboration with inventors from other countries, followed by Belgium with 43.4% and Ireland with 41.9%. Patents tend only to be ‘homemade’ in larger countries or countries with a high number of patent applications per million inhabitants, such as the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries.

Also indicative of a growing internationalised R&D base is the ability of countries to host large numbers of students, who are the potential researchers of the future. Here again, the UK is by far leading the way. In 2004, its universities hosted close to nine times as many foreign students as there were UK students enrolled at universities in other EU countries. Greece is at the other extreme: the number of Greek students enrolled in another EU country is nearly four times the number of foreign students hosted at Greek universities.

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