The U.K.'s 11,866 high-tech manufacturers, 7.2 percent of the country's total, were more productive, with average production values of almost €10 million each, compared to €4 million for the country's non-high-tech manufacturers.
France, too, had a productive high-tech manufacturing sector: its 16,188 high-tech manufacturers (6.5 percent of the total) had average production values of almost €9 million, while the rest of its manufacturing sector struggled to reach €4 million on average.
The relatively high production value of Germany's non-high-tech manufacturers compared to the U.K. could be due to the disappearance of Britain's traditional heavy manufacturing industry, and that country's subsequent move into the service sector.
Britain's high-tech ambitions manifest themselves more in services than in manufacturing. Although the U.K. and Germany had about the same number of service companies per capita (499,587 for Germany, 425,819 for the U.K.) 19 percent of Britain's service sector is involved in high-tech knowledge and information services, compared to 4.4 percent in Germany.
Spending on R&D is one way in which companies -- and countries -- stay ahead of their market. Average spending on R&D was 1.9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in the E.U. in 2004, compared to 2.59 percent in the U.S. and 3.15 percent in Japan, according to Eurostat. In Europe, 54 percent of that expenditure was financed by businesses, and the rest by governments. In the U.S., 63 percent of R&D was financed by business, and in Japan 75 percent.
By 2010, the European Commission wants European R&D spending to reach 3 percent of GDP, with two-thirds of that financed by industry,
So how are the various European countries approaching that goal?
The Scandinavian countries are closest: Finland spent 3.51 percent of GDP on R&D in 2004, and its expenditure is growing by 4 percent a year in real terms. In addition, over two-thirds of the money comes from industry. Sweden spent a greater proportion, 3.74 percent, on R&D, but its spending is shrinking by 2.1 percent a year in real terms. Nevertheless, it's met the target of two-thirds of spending from businesses. Denmark's R&D budget of 2.63 percent of GDP is rising by 4.3 percent a year, with around 61 percent of it privately funded.
Germany's R&D spending is not too far behind that of Denmark, at 2.49 percent of GDP or €55.1 billion, with two-thirds of it coming from industry, but that spending is only growing at 0.8 percent in real terms, not enough to bring it up to 3 percent by the 2010 deadline.
French spending is growing equally sluggishly, hovering around 2.5 percent of GDP, half of it from industry.
The French hope to boost the proportion of private-sector funding by offering financial incentives to state-run laboratories to seek it out. The initiative will brand participating research centers as "Carnot" laboratories (after a French statesman and scientist), and is modeled on the German network of public-private funded Fraunhofer research institutes. Starting next year, the French Ministry of Research will offer additional government funding to laboratories that win research contracts from industrial partners. The funding will be related to the number of private sector partners the labs find, with an initial budget of €40 million devoted to the project.