R&D expenditure in the EU remained nearly stable in 2015 at just over 2% of GDP – Almost two thirds spent in the business sector

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In 2015, the Member States of the European Union (EU) spent all together almost €300 billion on Research & Development (R&D). The R&D intensity, i.e. R&D expenditure as a percentage of GDP, stood at 2.03% in 2015, compared with 2.04% in 2014. Ten years ago (2005), R&D intensity was 1.74%.

With respect to other major economies, R&D intensity in the EU was much lower than in South Korea (4.29% in 2014) and Japan (3.59% in 2014) and lower than in the United States (2.73% in 2013), while it was about the same level as in China (2.05% in 2014) and much higher than in Russia (1.13%). In order to provide a stimulus to the EU’s competitiveness, an increase by 2020 of the R&D intensity to 3% in the EU is one of the five headline targets of the Europe 2020 strategy.

The business enterprise sector continues to be the main sector in which R&D expenditure was spent, accounting for 64% of total R&D conducted in 2015, followed by the higher education sector (23%), the government sector (12%) and the private non-profit sector (1%).

This information on Research and Development in the EU is published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. R&D is a major driver of innovation, and R&D expenditure and intensity are two of the key indicators used to monitor resources devoted to science and technology worldwide.

R&D intensity above 3% in Sweden, Austria and Denmark

In 2015, the highest R&D intensities were recorded in Sweden (3.26%), Austria (3.07%) and Denmark (3.03%), all with R&D expenditure above 3% of GDP, closely followed by Finland (2.90%) and Germany (2.87%). Belgium (2.45%), France (2.23%), Slovenia (2.21%) and the Netherlands (2.01%) registered R&D expenditure between 2.0% and 2.5% of GDP. At the opposite end of the scale, seven Member States recorded a R&D intensity below 1%: Cyprus (0.46%), Romania (0.49%), Latvia (0.63%), Malta (0.77%), Croatia (0.85%), Bulgaria and Greece (both 0.96%). Compared with 2005, R&D intensity increased in twenty-four Member States, decreased in Finland (from 3.33% in 2005 to 2.90% in 2015), Luxembourg (from 1.59% to 1.31%) and Sweden (from 3.39% to 3.26%), while it remained nearly stable in Croatia.

Highest share of R&D spending in the business sector in Slovenia, Bulgaria and Hungary…

The main sector in which R&D was performed in 2015 was the business enterprise sector in all Member States, except Greece, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia (where the higher education sector was the dominant performing sector).

The highest shares of R&D expenditure performed in the business sector were observed in Slovenia (76%), Bulgaria and Hungary (both 73%), Belgium and Ireland (both 72%, 2014 data for Ireland), Austria (71%), Sweden (70%), Germany (68%), Finland (67%), the United Kingdom (66%) and France (65%). Compared with 2005, the share of R&D conducted in the business enterprise sector increased in sixteen Member States, while it decreased in twelve.

… in the government sector in Romania and the higher education sector in Lithuania and Cyprus

For the government sector, the highest share was registered in Romania (38%), followed by Luxembourg (31%), Greece and Slovakia (both 28%), Latvia (26%), Croatia (25%) and Poland (24%). The highest shares of R&D conducted within the higher education sector were recorded in Lithuania (56%), Cyprus (54%) and Latvia (50%), ahead of Portugal (46%), Slovakia (44%), Estonia (41%) and Greece (38%).