March 17, 2010
Regarding ‘Finance ministers want 3% R&D target ditched‘:
The 3% is an easily memorable and therefore useful political target. However, we must look at its practical implications in a more careful and nuanced way.
Simply to claim that a country with high R&D spending will become more competitive than another with lower spending (both expressed in percentage of their GDP) is far fetched and too simplistic. Equally pointless is any exercise that looks at divergence from the 3% Barcelona target in isolation. I would caution against such a simplistic linear approach. Yet, simple economic indicators fascinate many policy analysts.
One must keep in mind that the figure of 3% has no scientific foundation. It is a pragmatic estimation (in other words, a qualified guesstimate) by an expert group that carried out the ‘Second five year-assessment of the EU RTD framework programme’ (chaired by Joan Majo in 1999-2000).
Nevertheless, it has achieved its aim and succeeded in focusing attention on R&D funding. Indeed, the progress towards the 3% target from a lower figure can be considered as an expression of the ability and readiness to modernise the national science policy in question.
As a general guiding principle, the 3% is useful and should remain in place.
Gilbert FaylLetters to the EurActiv editor