Asian economies could overtake Europe and the United States to become world leaders in research, according to an EU taskforce charged with predicting emerging trends over the coming two decades.
China and India will be global powers in R&D, accounting for around 20% of the world’s research investment – more than doubling their current share, according to ‘The World in 2025’.
The report, subtitled ‘Rising Asia and the socio-ecological transition’, was funded through the EU’s 7th Framework Programme for research (FP7), and says Asia is set to become the main destination for the location of business R&D.
It predicts a shift away from the current debate about ‘brain drain’, whereby scientists tend to move to Anglo-Saxon countries, to what it calls “a more balanced brain circulation of young researchers between regions of the world”.
An estimated 645,000 Chinese students and 300,000 Indian students will study abroad in 2025, but the number of EU students and researchers going to China will also increase, according to the forecasts.
The report comes at a time when the world is a crossroads. Next week (1 October) marks 60 years since the foundation of the People’s Republic of China amid much debate on what kind of new world order will emerge from the global financial crisis.
The assessment makes grim reading for Europeans given the focus political leaders are placing on creating an innovative knowledge economy.
The EU will fall further behind the US in new and emerging fields such as information technology and biotechnology. The EU executive has pledged to move knowledge creation to centre stage over the next five years, with a radical streamlining of innovation policy in the offing. A new strategy aimed at prioritising !key enabling technologies! will be published by the European Commission next month. It will focus on nanotechnology, advanced materials, photonics, biotechnology, and micro- and nanoelectronics.
According to the report, dramatic population surges in Asia will sharply increase the pressure on energy, water, food and raw materials worldwide. China is likely to see serious environmental crises, as well as social problems arising from yawning social inequality.
On a global scale, rising tensions exacerbate the risk of conflict. The expert group says the danger of a major war is greatest between the years 2010 and 2020 when “strong turbulence” is foreseen.