European companies jack up investment into research and development

The Joint Research Council of the European Union published on the 2nd of December its 2017 edition of the EU R&D Scoreboard (the Scoreboard), comprising the 2500 companies investing the largest sums in R&D in the world in 2016/17. These companies, based in 43 countries, each invested over €24m in R&D for a total of €741.6bn which is approximately 90% of the world’s business-funded R&D. They include 567 EU companies accounting for 26% of the total, 822 US companies for 39%, 365 Japanese companies for 14%, 376 Chinese for 8% and the rest-of-the-world (RoW) for 13%.

Worldwide, companies’ R&D investment increased by 5.8% over the previous year, the sixth consecutive year of significant increases. The companies headquartered in the EU increased their R&D investments more than the global average up to 7.0%. This increase is similar to the US (7.2%) and substantially above Japan (-3.0%). Chinese companies increased their R&D investment by 18.8%.

R&D growth was driven by ICT services (+11.7%), followed by Health and ICT producers (6.9% and 6.8% respectively). These three sectors, together with Automobiles, account for 75% of the total R&D of the 2500 companies in the Scoreboard. R&D investment of companies in the Automobiles and Aerospace & Defence sectors grew at a lower pace (2.7% and 2.2%, respectively), whereas that of Chemicals companies decreased (-1.9%).

In the EU, R&D growth was driven by the same sectors as worldwide, i.e. ICT producers (+14.4%), ICT services (+12.7%), Health industries (+7.9%) and Automobiles (+6.7%). However, companies from a few important sectors for the EU economy decreased their R&D, in particular Aerospace & Defence (-5.4%) and to a lesser extent Chemicals (-0.8%).

The 2017 Scoreboard includes an analysis of the 10-year economic and R&D performance of the top R&D investors showing that:

  • The EU share of world R&D remained constant at 26%, whereas at sector level, significant changes in EU’s R&D shares are observed, namely an increase in the Automobiles sector (from 36% to 44%) and a decrease in Aerospace & Defence (from 48% to 42%).
  • Compared to their non-EU counterparts, EU companies outperform or perform comparably in size (of R&D and sales) and R&D intensity for Aerospace & defence, Automobiles and Pharmaceuticals. But in Biotechnology, Software and IT hardware the EU shows persistent weaknesses in most indicators such as size and R&D/firm or sales/firm (in particular compared to US companies). The EU/non-EU gap in these latter three sectors has widened over the last ten years.
  • In terms of productivity (net sales/employee ratio), EU and US companies showed similar overall performance (ca. 14% increase in both net sales and employment). However, at sector level, contrasting productivity changes are observed, e.g. in Automobiles, EU 17% vs. US -15%; in ICT sectors, EU -1% vs. US 31% and in low tech sectors, EU -10% vs. US -33%.

Source: Joint Research Centre


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