The wheels of the EU machine grind slowly, and impressive commitments made by EU ministers are often not backed up by action. Will the goal to increase research spending in the EU to 3% of GDP be another example of this? Things are moving in the right direction, say industry representatives. Last week, the European Commission issued a proposal outlining key areas where concerted action is needed if the 3% target is to be met.

The ambitious 3% target, set at the Barcelona European Council in March 2002, can only be achieved with the help of the private sector. "Around two thirds of the [German] R&D budget are spent by industry, and if the R&D budget is to be increased, one needs to encourage industry to increase its investment in this area," says Christoph Schlüter of the Federation of German Industries (BDI).

At present, the EU devotes only 1.9% of...

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