EU R&D spending rose to €331B in 2021 – but research intensity fell

10 Oct 2023 | News byte


Spending on research and development in the EU was €331 billion in 2021, an increase of around €21 from the previous year, according to newly finalised figures published by the European Commission on 4 October.

Despite this jump, the amount spent on R&D as a percentage of overall GDP dropped slightly, from 2.3% to 2.27%, between 2020 - 2021. It is suggested this fall in R&D intensity could be a result of GDP rebounding after a drop off during the COVID-19 pandemic.

There remain huge disparities in R&D intensity across member states, as the graph shows. Belgium was in the lead at 3.43% and Romania last at 0.47%. R&D intensity in the majority of member states is below the EU average.

The EU’s average R&D intensity remains below levels in China at 2.41% in 2020, Japan 3.34% and the US 3.46%, shown in the graph below.

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Most R&D funding in the EU - the equivalent of 1.5% of GDP - comes from the private sector. This is far behind South Korea, where 3.9% is private, the US, 2.68%, Japan, 2.26% and Switzerland, 2.29%.

The structural issues underlying this were recognised in an analysis the European Commission carried out earlier this year to set the scene for the strategic plan for the Horizon Europe research programme from 2025 – 2027.

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