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The forthcoming Monitoring Financial Flows report shows that Europe needs to invest US$ 166.2 bn more in R&D by 2010

At the 2002 Barcelona European Council, Heads of State and Government agreed that R&D investment in the European Union (EU) must be increased with the aim of approaching 3% of GDP by 2010, up from 1.9% in 2000. According to the latest available data, included in the forthcoming Monitoring Financial Flows report of the Global Forum for Health Research, EU countries were investing US$ 269.6 bn in R&D (1.9% of GDP). This is US$ 166.2 bn short of the target.

This is an ambitious overall target for the EU (and achieving it requires the collective effort of the member countries). It is therefore interesting to see how closely the 27 individual EU members are approaching to this target. According to the latest OECD data, only Finland and Sweden had exceeded the 3% target by 2006, with 3.5 and 3.7% of GDP invested in R&D, whereas other countries have not even reached the 2000 average level of 1.9% of GDP in R&D (Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain and United Kingdom). Some countries have exceeded the 1.9% target set in 2000, but remain to achieve the target of 3% of GDP in R&D (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France and Germany).

Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania are currently not monitoring investments in R&D.

Why invest?

Investments in science and technology, many of which have direct or indirect impacts on health, have led to substantial increases in life expectancy for populations across the world. But, in general, the poorest countries have benefited least.

The Global Forum stresses the crucial need to address many neglected areas, in and beyond basic and clinical research. These neglected areas include the development of drugs, diagnostics and vaccines for diseases mainly found in low- and middle-income countries; research on how to deliver these interventions and provide access to them; and research to support the development of effective, affordable and equitable health systems that benefit poor and marginalized populations.

The EU endorsed the 3% target in recognition that R&D is a key sector of performance for knowledge-based economies. To meet the target, the EU will need to strengthen the environment for R&D and provide incentives for industry. To ensure that the increased level of R&D brings benefits in terms of improving global health equity, it will also need to foster concerted public- and private-sector action on R&D for neglected priorities.


1. OECD Factbook 2009: Economic, Environmental and Social Statistics (2009). Gross Domestic Expenditure on R&D as a Percentage of GDP, 2006 (, accessed 1 June 2022).

2. UNESCO Institute for Statistics (2009). Expenditure on R&D (, accessed 1 June 2022).

3. World Development Indicators Online, “GDP (Current US$, 2006)" (, accessed 1 June 2022).


1. Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania do not collect information on R&D investments as a percentage of GDP.

2. For Cyprus and Malta, UNESCO data on R&D was used.

The Global Forum for Health Research will release Monitoring Financial Flows for Health Research 2009 just prior to Forum 2009: Innovating for the health of all. The publication will feature research on public investments in health research in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Paraguay and Uruguay. It will also include an update on the 2008 Report Card, which reviews targets, commitments and aspirations relating to resources for development, health, research and health research and assess progress towards their implementation.

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