Total US R&D funding increased a mere 1.7% in 2016 to $457.7 billion in constant 2009 dollars, according to the latest estimates published last week by the National Science Foundation (NSF). This compares to a 3.0% boost in fiscal 2015.
The latest figures highlight the shift in funding sources for R&D performed by US businesses, higher education institutions and nonprofit organizations; namely, the declining role of the federal government as a source for R&D funding.
Also increasing their funding, seemingly to fill the gap left by a decrease in federal funding, has been universities and colleges themselves. Higher education’s percentage of its own funding for R&D has jumped from 22% in 2011 to 28%, or $11.3 billion, in 2016. But the share of total R&D funding from the federal government for higher education institutes has dropped to 51% in 2016 from 60% over five years.
The same pattern is evident for nonprofits. As a source of R&D spending, federal government funding for these institutions has decreased from 37% to 31% from 2011 to 2016. Nonprofits themselves have stepped in to fill the gap, with the share of their own R&D funding rising from 56% in 2011 to 61% in 2016. However, business funding for nonprofit R&D has barely risen, hovering at around 8% over the five-year period.