KEY SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING INDICATORS: 2010 DIGEST

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U.S. R&D: Funding and Performance

Why is this important?

Outcomes and benefits of R&D depend not only on the total resources devoted to it but also on the types of R&D these resources support—basic research, applied research, development—and on who performs it.

Key observations:

U.S. R&D expenditures, by source of funds: 1990–2008

($ BILLIONS)
SEI 2010: Sources of R&D Funding, Chapter 4.

Funding sources

Industry and the federal government are the largest supporters of U.S. R&D. Industry invested $268 billion in R&D in 2008, 67% of the estimated $398 billion national total. It has been the main funding source for U.S. R&D since 1980. Federal R&D support in 2008 stood at $104 billion.

Other sources—chiefly universities and colleges and other not-for-profit organizations—added another $26 billion.

Funding sources for U.S. applied research and development: 1990–2008

(PERCENT)

Funding sources for U.S. basic research: 1990–2008

(PERCENT)

Types of R&D

Funding sources differ by type of R&D. Industry funds the bulk of applied research and development ($256 billion of the $328 billion national total in 2008)—work that aims at practical applications, new products, or novel processes.

Basic research, directed primarily toward increasing knowledge or understanding, has long relied on the federal government for about 60% of its support ($39 billion of the 2008 $69 billion national total).

Funding sources for U.S. academic R&D: 1990–2008

(PERCENT)

Academic R&D support

The bulk of academic R&D is basic research, amounting to more than half of the nation's total basic research. Sources of support for academic R&D have been stable for nearly two decades: about 60% from the federal government, 20% from institutions' own funds. Industry funding has gradually declined from 7% to about 6%.

Performers of U.S. applied research and development: 1990–2008

(PERCENT)
NOTES: 2008 data are preliminary. Federal government is intramural only.
SEI 2010: Performers of R&D and R&D by Character of Work, Chapter 4.

Performers of U.S. basic research: 1990–2008

(PERCENT)
NOTES: 2008 data are preliminary. Federal government is intramural only.
SEI 2010: Performers of R&D and R&D by Character of Work, Chapter 4.

Performers

The nature of R&D varies by performer. Industry is the dominant performer of the nation's development and applied research; the federal government, academic institutions, and other nonprofit organizations combined perform less than 20% of that total.

Universities and colleges are the prime performers of the nation's basic research, a role they uniquely combine with the training of new researchers. Industry's share of basic research performance has recently risen after 9 years of decline.

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