Although included in a group of countries which are named “innovation followers” such as France and Austria, indicating that Ireland is quick to take up new technologies, it lags behind the likes of the UK, Sweden, Germany and Denmark.

EU chiefs said innovation in this sector would be vital to address global challenges such as climate change.

Gunter Verheugen, the EU commissioner for enterprise and industry and Janez Potocnik, the EU commissioner for Science and Research said in a statement: “At a time of crisis, it is not the moment to take a break in research investment and in innovation.

“They are vital if Europe wants to emerge stronger from the economic crisis and if it wants to address the challenges of climate change and globalisation.

“The EU does have many assets, notably an increasingly attractive European research area and a continuously improving innovation performance.

“But there is still work to be done, especially on the relative underinvestment by business.”

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