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EU companies increase R&D investment in face of stiff global competition

EU companies increase R&D investment in face of stiff global competition

Photo © luchshen - Fotolia

(BRUSSELS) - Companies' investment in research and development grew for the ninth consecutive year in 2018, though below the global growth rate, driven by the auto, health and ICT sectors - according to an EU report.

In the face of an ever-increasing global technological race, the top 2500 industrial players worldwide increased their R&D investment by 8.9% last year. EU companies account for 17 of the top 50 of corporate R&D investors. The growth in investment by EU-based companies is, however, outpaced by their US and Chinese counterparts: the former increased their R&D investment last year by 10.3%, the latter by 26.7%.

These are some of the main findings of the 2019 Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard, published by the European Commission today. It provides an annual in-depth analysis of the most recent investment trends of the worlds’ leading industrial R&D players contributing to understanding the positioning of the EU companies in the global landscape.

Notwithstanding the increas, much more is needed in the global race for technological leadership in deep-tech and sustainability, says the Innovation Commissioner Mariya Gabriel. She said he Commission would launch a fully-fledged European Innovation Council to invest in high-risk companies creating new markets: "If we want Europe to drive the transition to a climate-neutral economy, we need to redouble our efforts."

In the ranking of 2500 worldwide largest R&D investors, the US comes first with 769 companies (€313 billion), followed by 551 EU based companies (€208 billion) and China 507 companies (€96 billion). The 551 EU based companies employed more than 19.4 million people, an increase of 3.9% over the previous year.

EU based automotive companies have contributed most to R&D growth in the EU and prepare for the future with a broad patent portfolio to reduce vehicle emissions (behind Japan) and for autonomous vehicles. On the other hand the EU has been overtaken in the ICT sector by China’s large R&D investments, and the US strengthened its leadership through high R&D growth in ICT and health industries.

Global R&D was driven by the US ICT service sector (17.1%) followed by ICT producers (9.1%) and the health sector (9.3%). EU R&D growth sectors comprises automobiles (6.4%), ICT producers (5.5%) and health (3.8%). EU companies are competing with the US in aerospace and defence and in the chemicals sector where Japan takes the lead.

The Scoreboard includes a separate analysis of patents filed worldwide for 2012-2015. The 2500 Scoreboard companies hold 53% of all the green tech patents of 2012-2015. The biggest share of these patents (38% during 2012-2015) is in transport. The top 25 companies in green tech patenting include five EU based companies; while nine Japanese companies are overall the most active.

Finally, the report shows that growth in R&D investment of the 2500 top industrial players is accompanied by a raise in most financial indicators. Net sales (8.4%) and profits (9.1%) continued the positive trend of the previous year increasing at a similar rate to R&D investment. Net sales of the 551 companies based in the EU reached €6 trillion, an increase of 4.7% on the previous year.

2019 EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard


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