Last month, the NSF’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics released new R&D data collected from surveys of private businesses, federal and non-federal government, higher education institutes and nonprofit organizations, indicating that R&D performance in 2015 was $499.3 billion. R&D total numbers have increased around $20 billion over the last three years largely due to business R&D performance, with a $20.4 billion increase in 2013, $21.1 billion in 2014 and $21.6 billion in 2015. From 2008 to 2014, total R&D grew 1.2% annually on average, which correlates to the average increase of US GDP over the six-year period. In 2011, 2013 and 2014, however, the R&D growth rate was higher and faster than GDP growth.

For at least the past two decades, the business sector has been the top performer of US R&D, representing between 68% and 74% of R&D since 1994. In 2014, the business sector accounted for $340.7 billion (71%) of the total $477.7 billion US R&D total, and averaged a 1.1% annual growth rate from 2008–2014. Higher education was the second-largest sector in R&D performance, representing $64.7 billion (14%) of R&D in 2014, with increases of $2–$3 billion each year from 2009 to 2011. From 2008–­­2014, higher education had an average annual growth rate of 1.5%. The third leading performer of R&D was the federal government, accounting for $52.3 billion (11%) of US R&D in 2014, with an average 0.8% annual R&D growth rate from 2008 to 2014. Nonprofit organizations contributed $19.5 billion (4%) to R&D performance in 2014, with a minimal increase in average annual growth over the last two decades.

The business sector was the largest funding source for US R&D in 2014, representing 67% of total R&D funding in 2014; federal government sources accounted for 25%. Experimental development was 63% of total R&D expenditure in 2014, while applied research was 20% and basic research was 18%. According to the data, the ratio of R&D to GDP has grown largely due to increases of R&D expenditure from the business sector.

Source: NSF

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