Improving the innovation performance of European economies is a major challenge for European policy makers and economic analysts. A large set of theoretical and empirical contributions in the economic literature converges on the identification of research and development (R & D) and innovation as the main drivers of economic growth, jobs and social welfare. Over the past decade, also a broad consensus has developed with respect to structural reforms aimed at improving the overall employment, growth and innovation performance of Europe. These issues are at the core of the growth agenda for policy makers, so it is not surprising that many policy initiatives have been registered in the field of R & D, education and innovation at the European level and in many European Member States under the framework and objectives identified by the Lisbon Strategy (2000–10) and afterwards by the Europe 2020 Strategy (2011–20). Latest available data for the EU-27 indicates that Europe is still far from the ambitious target of devoting 3 per cent of GDP to investment in R & D – of which two-thirds is funded by businesses. Therefore, the target is now maintained as part of the renewed Europe 2020 strategy. Overall R & D spending represents 2.03 per cent of EU-27 GDP in 2011 (the latest equivalent figure is 2.87 per cent in the USA and 3.36 per cent in Japan in 2009).
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