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The UK lags much of the European Union in the intensity of its contributions to science and technology research.

In cash terms, the UK is one of the three largest contributors, along with France and Germany, but our €30bn overall R&D spend is a mere 1.85 per cent of GDP.

By contrast, Sweden spends more than twice as much as the UK, committing 4.27 per cent of GDP to research. Even in real terms, both France and Germany invest more. Germany’s €52bn R&D budget dwarfs all others in Europe. France claims second place with €33bn, with the UK taking third place. Together, these three nations account for two thirds of the EU’s entire R&D spend.

At a meeting in Barcelona in 2002, the EU said it wants countries to commit three per cent of their gross domestic product to science and technology research by 2010. This would bring the continent in line with spending in the US and Japan.

The average contribution across member states is currently two per cent of GDP, and distribution is uneven. Research spending was less than one per cent in the so-called tourist economies of Greece, Portugal and Spain, while more industrialised nations, like Belgium, Sweden, Finland and Denmark, managed to beat the two per cent benchmark. ®

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