From Mr Maciej Olex-Szczytowski.

Sir, Amen to the plea from the European Round Table of Industrialists and the European Research Council that the EU's mooted €80bn research and development programme for 2014-20, Horizon 2020, be approved in full (Letters, February 1). They correctly point to the global dangers for the EU inherent in its inadequate R&D expenditures (1.9 per cent of gross domestic product compared with 2.8 per cent for the US, for example).

But these numbers, worrying as they are, hide a veritable crisis in R&D in central and eastern Europe. Spending in the region is pathetically low: 0.8 per cent of GDP for Poland, for example, and 0.5 per cent for Romania.

Instead of narrowing the gap, the EU’s R&D programmes are exacerbating it. This is because they structurally favour old-EU, ERTI-type large corporations and their old-EU academic allies. The EU12 (central and eastern Europe plus Cyprus and Malta) have seen only 4 per cent of allocations so far under Horizon 2020’s current predecessor, the €50bn Seventh Framework Programme. This is half their share in EU GDP (about 8 per cent) and grossly below their share in population (20 per cent). Poland, with the largest EU12 allocation, is getting only 1 per cent of FP7 monies. The Czech Republic is getting about half that.

By all means raise the funding for Horizon 2020 way above the FP7 level. But if the scheme is to have legitimacy east of the Erzgebirge and the Oder the EU must radically reform the distribution of its R&D largesse.

Maciej Olex-Szczytowski, Warsaw, Poland

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