Within five years China will be investing a higher proportion of its gross domestic product in research and development than the European Union, as more western companies move their R&D eastwards, the European Commission fears.
Janez Potocnik, EU commissioner for research, warned: “The Chinese trend is extremely clear. If the trend continues, they [China] will catch us up in 2009 or 2010. The conditions for R&D in some emerging markets like China are improving and it is obvious that they [European companies] are transferring some of their investments there.”
Mr Potocnik’s worries about Europe’s unfavourable R&D environment range from excessive red tape to insufficient corporate tax incentives and continued divergences in intellectual property protection and patenting across the 25-nation EU.
The article reminds us of recent attempts to increase R&D spending by EU officialdom itself:
A Brussels plan to double the EU's own R&D budget to €70bn over the next six years was shelved in June amid an acrimonious battle among EU leaders over future EU funding.
That would be the summit in which President Chirac, in refusing to reform the EU budget to reflect more R&D spending, referred to the agricultural sector as “modern and dynamic”.
More hits from the FT article:
Mr Potocnik's forecast is certain to reinforce concerns that China will soon present as much of a competitive threat to Europe in high-value sectors such as information technology as in low-end manufactured goods such as bras and tee-shirts, which were at the heart of the textiles trade dispute between Brussels and Beijing earlier this year.
Perhaps this was on the mind of someone far wiser than I when he asked me this past week, “Does Europe really matter anymore?”