PharmExec Blog

Emerging Countries Closing in on Western R&D

UNESCO report reveals seismic shift in the world’s R&D balance.

The US, Europe, and Japan may still be leading the global R&D effort, but emerging countries, especially China, are hot on their heels, says a UNESCO report launched yesterday (World Science Day). While investment in R&D is growing globally in volume, the emerging countries are rapidly gaining strength in science and technology.

The UNESCO Science Report points to Asia’s share of gross domestic expenditure on research and development (GERD), which increased from 27 percent to 32 percent between 2002 and 2007 (led mainly by China, India, and the Republic of Korea). Over the same period, the European Union (EU), US, and Japan saw a decrease: in 2002, almost 83 percent of R&D was carried out in developed countries, and by 2007 this share had dropped to 76 percent. Between 2000 and 2007, the private sector share of R&D spending, as a proportion of GDP, saw a sharp increase in Japan, China, Singapore, and especially the Republic of Korea, while it remained stable in Germany, France, and the UK and even saw a slight decrease in the Russian Federation and the US.

The report also reveals a significant upturn in the number of researchers in developing countries, which increased from 30% in 2002 to 38% in 2007, two-thirds of which were in China alone. (With 1,423,400 researchers, China was on the verge of overtaking the US and the EU in 2007). Accordingly, China’s share of scientific publications than doubled, increasing from 5.2% in 2002 to 10.6% in 2008. The number of articles published by researchers in Latin America has also increased, mostly thanks to Brazil.

The leap in research efforts is linked to the rapid development of the internet, which in 2002, was used by just over 10 out of 100 people globally. Today there are over 23 internet users per 100. This proportion rose from 1.2 to 8 in the same period in Africa, from 2.8 to 16 in the Arab States, and from 8.6 to 28 in Latin America.

In light of this shifting R&D balance, UNESCO Director General, Irina Bokova, in her Foreword to the Report, said: “I am convinced that, more than ever, regional and international scientific co-operation is crucial to addressing the interrelated, complex and growing global challenges with which we are confronted.”  She added that UNESCO must and will pursue its efforts to strengthen international partnerships and co-operation.

The UNESCO Science Report is available in electronic form in English, Arabic, Spanish, Chinese, French and Russian — and in summary in English — on request from
Agnès Bardon, UNESCO Division of Public Information, tel : +33 (0) 1 45 68 17 64. bardon@unesco.org
and Isabelle Le Fournis, UNESCO Division of Public Information, tel : +33 (0) 1 45 68 17 48. i.le-fournis@unesco.org

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2 Comments

  1. Boris Azaïs
    Posted November 12, 2010 at 5:53 am | Permalink

    This UNESCO report should be seen as a milestone in the emergence of new global R&D players. The Eastward shift of R&D activities has been accelerating in the last decade and will re-shape the geography of pharmaceutical innovation as we’ve known it.

    Euractiv.com has just published a special dossier on this trend, which can be found at
    http://www.euractiv.com/en/health/medicines-emerging-markets-linksdossier-499450

  2. Posted November 15, 2010 at 6:30 am | Permalink

    Dear Editor,
    I noticed that the links don’t work to the report above published by UNESCO. Agnès Bardon works in UNESCO’s press office. Her e-mail is a.bardon@unesco.org.
    The full report may be accessed directly from here: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/natural-sciences/
    Please note that the report exists in English only but that the summary of the report exists in Arabic, English, French, German, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.
    Sincerely
    Susan Schneegans
    Editor, UNESCO Science Report 2010

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