Research and development (i48)

In 2020, research and development expenditures in Belgium amounted to 3.5% of gross domestic product. To achieve the sustainable development goal by 2030, this figure must reach 3%. This objective will be reached by continuing the trend since 2000 (data available in November 2021). Research and development expenditures are therefore developing favourably.

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Research and development - Belgium - trend assessment

percentage of gross domestic product

trend and extrapolation (November 2021)
objective 2020 and beyond3.

Eurostat (2022), Intramural R&D expenditure (GERD) by sectors of performance [rd_e_gerdtot], (consulted on 31/05/2022) & calculations FPB.

Research and development - Belgium and international comparison

percentage of gross domestic product

//: Average Growth Rates

Eurostat (2022), Intramural R&D expenditure (GERD) by sectors of performance [rd_e_gerdtot], (consulted on 31/05/2022).

Research and development by region - Belgium

percentage of gross domestic product

Brussels-Capital Region1.
Flemish Region2.
Walloon Region1.
//: Average Growth Rates

Eurostat (2022), Intramural R&D expenditure (GERD) by sectors of performance [rd_e_gerdreg], (consulted on 09/06/2022).

Definition: the indicator measures gross domestic expenditure on research and development (R&D), both public and private, as a percentage of GDP. These expenditures relate to work undertaken on a systematic basis to increase the stock of knowledge, and the use of this stock of knowledge for new applications. Data come from Eurostat.

Goal: the share of R&D expenditure must reach 3% of GDP as from 2020.

The Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs adopted by the UN in 2015 include target 9.5: "Enhance scientific research, upgrade the technological capabilities of industrial sectors in all countries, in particular developing countries, including, by 2030, encouraging innovation and substantially increasing the number of research and development workers per 1 million people and public and private research and development spending".

In the National Reform Programme adopted in 2011 by Belgium (Federal Government, 2011) in the context of the Europe 2020 strategy (European Commission, 2010), Belgium committed itself to achieve R&D expenditure equal to 3% of its GDP by 2020, a target renewed in all consecutive NRP’s. This target of 3% was first set by the Barcelona European Council in 2002, as part of the Lisbon Strategy, to be reached by 2010 (European Council, 2002).

The Federal Long-Term Strategic Vision for Sustainable Development also sets this objective: "Research and development budgets will reach at least 3% of GDP and will increase year by year" (Objective 49; Belgian Official Gazette, 08/10/2013).

Since the commitments set a target of 3% for 2020 and 2050, this goal is also considered for 2030.

International comparison: in comparison with the European average, the Belgian indicator as a percentage of GDP has always stood at a higher level. As from 2009, the growth rate of the indicator (both in euros and as a percentage of GDP) for Belgium was higher. Therefore, the gap in 2020 between the Belgian R&D expenditure and the European ones (EU27) is close to 1.3 percentage point. When Member States are divided into three groups, Belgium is part of the group with the best performance in 2020. In that year, Sweden ranked first with 3.% and Romania last with 0.5%.

UN indicator: the selected indicator corresponds to indicator 9.5.1 - Research and development expenditure as a proportion of GDP.


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