Top EU firms increase investment in innovation, but lag behind global competitors

Date: Thu, 10/20/2011 - 10:34 Source: European Commission press department

The European Commission's 2011 "EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard" shows that R&D investment by top EU companies recovered strongly in 2010, with a 6.1% rise following a 2.6% decrease in 2009. However, data for the world's top 1400 companies show EU companies as a whole lagging behind major competitors from the US and some Asian economies on R&D growth

Top EU firms increase investment in innovation, but lag behind global competitors

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science

Image credited to European Commission

There was a general positive trend in 2010, as global R&D investment increased by 4%, a robust up-turn after the 1.9% drop observed in 2009. The global top 50 in terms of total R&D investment includes 15 EU companies, 18 US firms and 13 from Japan. Two pharmaceutical companies occupied the top spots: Roche from Switzerland (€7.2bn) followed by Pfizer from the US (€7bn). Volkswagen (€6.3bn), in sixth place, is the biggest EU investor in R&D, followed by Nokia (11th with €4.9bn), Daimler (13th with €4.8bn) and Sanofi-Aventis (14th with €4.4bn).
Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science said: "The upturn in R&D investment by EU companies is a positive signal as we seek to boost growth and jobs through innovation in Europe. However, the fact that we are still lagging behind some global competitors shows we have to improve conditions for business further, in line with our Innovation Union goals. We need quick adoption and implementation of recent and up-coming European Commission proposals on the unitary patent, on standards, public procurement and risk capital."
US companies did even better than the EU in 2010, with R&D investment increasing by 10% (after a 5.1% decrease in 2009). Companies from some Asian countries continued to show very strong growth in R&D investment levels, including 29.5% for Chinese companies and 20.5% for those from South Korea. The 1400 companies in the Scoreboard employed more than 40 million people in 2010, a 3% increase over 2009. An analysis of the past eight years' trends shows that employment growth in R&D-intensive sectors is generally higher than in other sectors and less affected by the economic downturn.
More than two thirds of R&D investment of EU Scoreboard companies is from those located in the three biggest Member States, with German companies showing the highest one-year growth (8.1%). This is mostly due to a few automotive companies (Daimler, Volkswagen and BMW). UK companies' R&D investment growth was 5.8%, close to the EU average, compared to 3.8% for French companies.
In other Member States, a few large players account for high shares of R&D investment growth. These include Novo Nordisk (27.3%) and Vestas (49.8%) in Denmark and Banco Santander (56.3%), Telefonica (16%) and Amadeus (33.2%) in Spain. Fast growing companies such as TomTom (Netherlands) in the electronic equipment sector, Autonomy (UK) and Gameloft (France) in software and Morphosys (Germany) in biotech, are highlighted as success stories showing very good performance in 2010.

The EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard is published annually by the European Commission (DG Research and Innovation and Joint Research Centre) and provides information on the world's top 1400 companies (400 based in the EU and 1000 from outside) ranked by their investments in R&D. It measures the total value of their global R&D investment, irrespective of the location where the relevant R&D takes place.
Innovation Union is one of the seven flagship initiatives of the Europe 2020 strategy for a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy. Innovation Union plan aims to make Europe into a world-class science performer and remove obstacles to innovation – like expensive patenting, market fragmentation, slow standard-setting and skills shortages – which currently prevent ideas getting quickly to market. It also seeks to revolutionise the way public and private sectors work together, notably through Innovation Partnerships between the European institutions, national and regional authorities and business.

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