Not Good News On European R&D

This is not very encouraging:

European spending on re-search and development is falling further behind target, widening the innovation gap between the EU and competitors such as the US and Japan, two studies show.

North American and Asian companies are outpacing European businesses in R&D investment and spending more in high-technology sectors, according to data to be released on Friday by the European Commission’s research directorate.

It is doubly not very encouraging due to a point made in a paper which Brad Setser points us to. The paper is the U.S. and Global Imbalances: Can Dark Matter Prevent a Big Bang? by Ricardo Hausmann and Fredrico Sturzenegger. Basically they argue that the net US financial position is not as dire as it seems due to the existance of ‘dark matter’ (or in more converntional terms, due to the part of the iceberg which isn’t visible and measured). US assets they argue are conventionally undervalued due to the presence of ‘hard to measure’ components. Central to their argument is this point:

We would say that EuroDisney in reality is not worth 100 million (what BEA would value it) but four times that (the capitalized value at our 5% rate of the 20 million per year that it earns). BEA is missing this and therefore grossly understates net assets. Why can EuroDisney earn such a return? Because the investment comes with a substantial amount of know-how, brand recognition, expertise, research and development and also with our good friends Mickey and Donald. This know-how is a source of dark matter. It explains why the US can earn more on its assets than it pays on its liabilities and why foreigners cannot do the same.

I would say the argument that ‘foreigners’ are unable to leverage “know-how, brand recognition, expertise, research and development” is a ridiculously simplistic one, and it almost stretches the bounds of credulity that someone might believe this, but that having been said, if here in Europe we continually fail to maintain our R&D pace it will not be such a silly argument at some stage in the foreseeable future.