The report, which analyses data ranging from global trends in R&D expenditure to patterns of research mobility, was published by the European Commission last month. It aims to inform and guide future policy-making.

The EU's share of global R&D expenditure was 26.9% in 1995, representing a fall of about 1% since 1980. The EU now spends 1.8% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on R&D, a lower proportion than the US (2.2%), the developed Asian economies (2.7%) and countries such as Iceland, Norway and Switzerland (2.1%). But the EU lags furthest behind in the percentage of GDP spent on industrial R&D (1.1%) compared with the US (1.77%) and Japan (1.95%).

The EU does well, however, in the number of scientific papers published and between 1980 and 1995, it overtook the US. However, the average number of citations per paper was lower in the EU (1.05) than in the US (1.4). South-east Asia lags behind with a citation index of 0.84.

The EU has not done so well with patents, although by 1992 the decline of the previous three years had halted. Japan has overtaken the US in the number of patents filed per employee, and has maintained that lead despite a setback in the early 1990s. The EU is strongest in patents related to the aerospace, chemical, pharmaceutical and motor vehicle industries, and weakest in computers, electronics and instruments. The number of patents filed in the latter three areas actually declined between 1993 and 1995.

The increase in the volume of high-tech products in exports indicates the extent to which technological advance has boosted economic growth. The EU's exports of high-tech products grew rapidly in the 1990s, says the report, although there was wide variation in this growth between member states. Ireland leads the way with 40% of its exports being high-tech; the UK is second with 20%. Despite this growth, however, the EU share of global exports of high-tech products slipped from 28% to 21% between 1990 and 1995. The US share of this market also decreased over the same period, indicating a rise in the strength of Japan and the developed Asian economies. Nonetheless, the US market share remained higher than either the EU or Japan.

The report also documents the growing role of European collaboration. One of the tangible benefits of collaboration is that internationally authored papers are significantly more cited than nationally authored ones. In some countries with a weak science and technology base, having a foreign author doubles the chance of being cited, according to the report.