Asian countries train twice as many scientists compared to European member states, and three times as many engineers. This training gap is threatening the future of Europe’s economic recovery due to the lack of qualified scientific and technical human resources. Although the number of graduates in the fields is now increasing slowly, their academic achievement falls well behind that of their Asian counterparts.
Unless this gap is addressed, companies operating in Europe will need to recruit scientific and engineering talent from other regions, or even close facilities in Europe in favour of other regions, the EU says. This will have a negative impact on salary levels and local economies (high level R&D is typically a well-paid and resource-intensive activity).
Maire Geoghan-Quin, European Commissioner for Science, Research and Innovation, highlighted the scale of the problem in a recent speech to the Tyndall Institute in Ireland:
“We cannot risk our future growth and competitiveness by cutting back now on the investment in education, research and innovation that is necessary for long-term and sustained recovery.”
In response to the situation, European business leaders and education policy makers launched this week a €8.3mn initiative to inspire students to study science at university, as it has become a much needed skill set if the region’s economy is to recover and flourish by 2020.
InGenious is a new European coordinating body for science, technology, engineering and mathematics education which brings together the collective wisdom of the European Commission, 30 Ministries of Education involved in European Schoolnet and major international companies such as Volvo, Shell, Philips, BASF, Nokia, Microsoft and Intel.
Founded by European Round Table of Industrialists and European Schoolnet, InGenious aims to demonstrate how science and technology skills can help young people get jobs. The foundation is the belief that the lack of scientists threatens Europe’s economic recovery.
Indeed, Western European students the least likely to study science, maths and engineering. An indicator developed by the European Round Table of Industrialists demonstrates that those countries where students are least likely to choose science, maths and engineering are France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK. At the same time, even Europe’s highest scientific achievers, Finnish students, are still outperformed by Chinese students in Shanghai and Hong Kong according to OECD figures.