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R&D Booms in Western Europe

March 1997

Western European countries are outpacing both the United States and Asia in the production of science and engineering doctorates. At the same time, these European countries are investing heavily in state-of-the-art laboratories and other facilities.

These are some of the conclusions of Human Resources for Science and Technology: The European Region, a new report from NSF's Division of Science Resources Studies (SRS). The report is summarized in a data brief written by SRS Senior Analyst Jean Johnson.

For the United States, these advances may mean not only increased competition but also more opportunities for collaboration, writes Johnson.

The study covers a 17-year period, during which European countries increased their awards of natural science and engineering degrees. Using 1992 data, regional totals were compiled from 11 European countries: Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. These totals showed that Europe had awarded a total of 29,540 doctorate degrees in science and engineering. For the same year, the United States awarded 25,184 and Asia (including China, India, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan) awarded 11,767 doctorates. The biggest differences were in natural sciences. In this area, European countries awarded 18,951 doctorates, compared to 12,555 in the United States and 6,593 in Asia.

Using data collected from a slightly different grouping of countries, the report stated that in 1993 European Union countries, plus Norway and Switzerland, invested a total of $103.5 billion in R&D, or 2.1% of their combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In the same year, the United States invested $133.8 billion, 2.6% of its GDP.

However, the report notes, the total amount these Western European countries spent on non-defense research approaches that of the United States. In addition, this group of European countries spent about $20 billion on research done in academic institutions, matching the U.S. expenditure for the same time period.

The United States may benefit as Western European countries continue to develop a cooperative approach to science and technology research, writes Johnson.

"Current U.S. science policy fosters international cost-sharing and promoting access to the world's best science and technology," she writes. "Europe, with its high concentration of science resources, well-trained Ph.Ds, large facilities and impressive science budgets in non-defense R&D, provides the United States with a primary region with which to vigorously pursue this policy."

The U.S. data for this report are updated data from the SRS report: National Patterns, 1996.


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