At times of economic turmoil throughout the world it appears that there is an increased focus in producing strategies for economic growth, the current leading countries and regions, and the aspiring regions all have entered the race. Increasingly, this also means a focus on knowledge and higher education as the main sector for producing new knowledge. Recently, China has issued its new strategy for the new decade – Innovation 2020 with ambitious goals in research. So – how does this compare to Europe?
Europe 2020 was introduced in March 2010 and followed up and replaced the earlier Lisbon Strategy, and included five areas for focus: employment, innovation, education, social inclusion and climate/energy. It was after the Lisbon strategy and the use of Open Method of Coordination (OMC), that the European Commission has increasingly legitimized its participation in higher education policy in Europe. The role of the Lisbon process and OMC issues have also received attention in the scholarly literature (see e.g. Gornitzka 2007, Keeling 2006). The goals related to higher education and research in the strategy are that the number of tertiary education graduates in the age group of 30-34 should be increased from 31% to 40%, and investment in R&D (including private sector) is to reach 3% of GDP. The overall Europe 2020 strategy has also received criticism, Euractiv cited Bengt-Åke Lundvall, a professor of economics at the University of Aalborg, who argued in October 2010 that the Europe2020 strategy had a too general focus, and was potentially less effective than the strategy in China.
While Europe is balancing its ambitions for the future with its somewhat difficult current economic situation, doubts on the future leading role of Europe are visible in public opinion. A survey of 6000 respondents from 6 countries (published in December 2010) indicated that China is seen to become ‘world’s most important innovation center’ by 2020.