The figures are from the French Science and Technology Observatory. "The connection between research and innovation is really bad, " says Rémi Barré, director of the observatory, which monitors scientific activity in France.

The government's spending on R&D is about FFr 180 bn (about £1.8 bn) each year - 2.4% of the country's gross national product. Industrial R&D has remained at a constant level since 1990, despite a reduction in government spending on military R&D. However the number of European patents registered by French researchers has fallen by 18% over this period. The electronics industry has seen the largest drop, despite its strong R&D activities.

In academia, French physics scores highly in relation to other disciplines, producing more than 17% of all European publications and more than 5% of publications worldwide (see ). However the growth of physics "productivity" - a measure of the impact of publications - is slowing. "Physics is not the field where we have made the most investments over the last few years, " says Barré. Moreover he believes that the reduction in funding for large facilities is likely to have an impact in the medium-term.

The observatory's 1998 report also analyses the number of papers per region in France, Germany and the UK. France has only two regions in the European top twenty - Paris and Essone - whereas Germany and the UK each have five. The situation in France is improving, however, "because French scientists are publishing in a wider range of journals, " says Barré.