Korea has become the biggest spender on R&D as a percentage of GDP, taking the lead from Israel, according to figures from the OECD.

OECD figures show Korea spent 4.29 percent of its GDP on R&D in 2014, followed by Israel at 4.11 percent. Third placed nation, Japan, spent 3.58 percent. Also in 2014 China's spending passed that of the 28 EU members to reach 2.05 percent, meeting the 2.0 percent goal set in the country's 2006-2010 economic plan. The EU-28 averaged 1.94 percent, well below the bloc's target to spend 3.0 percent of GDP on R&D by 2020. Overall OECD countries spent an average of 2.37 percent of GDP on R&D in 2014, unchanged from 2013.

Korea has demonstrated by far the fastest growth on R&D spending since 2000 when it stood at 2.1 percent of GDP. China has been second fastest; it spent 0.9 percent of GDP on R&D in 2000.  In absolute terms, China's R&D spend exceeded that of the EU-28 for the first time in 2014.

The OECD said that lower public R&D budgets were holding back R&D spending in many countries. ""In an indication of 2015 trends, provisional 2015 government budget data for 19 OECD countries shows public R&D spending slowing again after briefly stabilizing in 2014,"" the OECD said. ""The figures do not include the (off-budget) cost of tax incentives for business R&D, where they exist, which have been increasing in many countries but not always enough to offset budget cuts. Of the 19 countries, two thirds reduced their public R&D budgets in real terms, leaving the total for the group down 1.3 percent.""