Regional overview: Europe and North America

UNESCO Science Report, Towards 2030

In the USA a fragile recovery is beginning to take hold and business investment in R&D is rising. The USA still leads the global R&D with 28.1% of world GERD. The US Government has been active in pushing ahead with certain structural reforms with potent effect on the future orientation of science and research. This is most notable in the health area, through The Affordable Care Act (2010) and the President’s Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative (2013). The Administration is striving to sustain U.S. investments in science, technology, and industrial innovation. At the same time, research on defence and related areas has been on the decline in recent years.

Despite lack of support for it in the legislature, climate change has been the US Administration’s top priority for science policy. Using regulatory powers, the US Environmental Protection Agency has set emissions reductions and some states have set rigorous emissions targets – most notably California. This will only be reached through major technological advances and cooperation with industry stakeholders. The American Business Act on Climate Pledge announced by the White House in July 2015 received support and emissions-related pledges from 13 large corporations spanning manufacturing and services industries (Alcoa, Bank of America, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Coca Cola, Google, Walmart…)

The US Government is also funding major alternative energy initiatives, notably through the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E), established in 2009 and with annual funding ranging from ranging from US$ 180 million in 2011 to US$ 280 million in 2015.

Countries with strong raw material endowments, such as Canada and Russia rode the post-crisis period with relative ease until the collapse of oil and other commodity prices in 2014 and now see their STI efforts come under strain when new sources of growth are most needed.

With 54 631 scientific articles in 2014 (4.3% of the world), Canada has the highest level of publications per million population (1 538) among the large advanced economies (G7). But Canada is also one of the few large advanced economies with a declining GERD-GDP ratio in recent years (from 1.92% in 2007 to 1.63% in 2013). Concerned, especially, with reversing its declining business investment in R&D, Canada is taking initiatives to strengthen industry-academia links and build on its existing industrial strengths in areas such as energy, pharmaceuticals, ICTs, etc.

Much of the EU area continues to be characterized by slow growth both in economic output and R&D expenditure. Only the three Nordic members (Denmark, Finland and Sweden) exceed the EU's target of 3% as a GERD-GDP ratio, although Germany is on the threshold.

The eight phase of the EU’s Framework Programme (FP) on Research and Technological Development named Horizon 2020 and covering the period 2014-2020 provides close to € 80 billion (representing 23% increase on its predecessor, the FP-7) to promote innovation with an accent on resource efficiency, sustainable growth and inclusiveness. The European Commission has launched a supplementary Plan for Investment in Europe to support innovation in smaller enterprises and speed up structural reforms. Research intensity of many individual EU countries continues to fall short of targets despite these initiatives.

However, Horizon 2020 remains a potent instrument promoting mobility and cooperation within the Union as well as representing a strong mechanism for attraction for EU’s neighbouring regions, including Southeast Europe, countries around the Black Sea or those located on the southern shores of the Mediterranean.

The Russian Federation has taken initiatives since 2012 to improve conditions of researchers, promote key strategic technologies such as nanotechnologies and generate better synergies between business and academia through a reform of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Coming from different economic structural backgrounds in recent history, countries in the Black Sea basin have converged in their levels of industrialisation, educational attainment and science and technology intensity, and they all seek, to varying degrees, an integration with the European Research Area. The R&D intensity of the economy has risen in Turkey while it remains significantly below its historical levels in the larger post-Soviet states in the region.

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