Economic disparity across Europe's regions can be linked directly to investment in research and development and adoption of information technologies, says an official report.
The two factors are key to a region’s innovation capacity, and hence its ability to generate jobs and boost gross domestic product (GDP), according to the European Commission’s fourth report on cohesion.
In the top 35 regions, spending on R&D exceeds the target of 3 per cent of GDP set out in the Lisbon agenda. In total these 35 account for 46 per cent of all R&D expenditure across Europe – which is twice their share in GDP. At the very top, in the German region of Braunschweig R&D expenditure is 7 per cent of GDP, while it exceeds four percent in 12 other regions.
At the bottom of the pile there are many regions where no money is spent on research. In the bottom 47 regions (nearly 20 per cent of the total) expenditure on GDP amounts collectively to 0.5 per cent of the continent’s total investment.
Similarly, access to information technology is a driver of economic development. Across the EU as a whole around half of households have internet access, but while rates exceed 70 per cent in the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden they are around 20 per cent in Czech, Hungary, Slovakia and Greece. In regions where the GDP is below 75 per cent of the EU average, fewer than 15 per cent of households have broadband internet access.
“The report reveals worrying disparities in modern infrastructure, research and education, which limit our capacity for excellence and innovation,” said Danuta Hubner, regional policy commissioner.
The report covers the first full year of the implantation of cohesion programmes, designed to eradicate economic and social disparity in the member states that joined the EU in May 2004.