Government R&D funding statistics compiled annually by the OECD provide insights into how national government priorities for R&D differ across countries. Known technically as government budget appropriations or outlays for R&D (GBAORD), this indicator provides data on how a country’s overall government funding for R&D splits among a set of socioeconomic categories (e.g., defense, health, space, general research). These GBAORD statistics for the United States and other top R&D-performing countries appear in table
Defense is an objective for government funding of R&D for the top seven R&D-performing countries, but the share varies widely (table
Defense has received more than 50% of the federal R&D budget in the United States for much of the past 20 years. It was 63% in 1990 as the long Cold War period drew to a close, but it dropped in subsequent years. The defense share of government R&D funding for the other countries over the past 20 years has generally declined or remained at a stable, low level.
The health and environment objective accounted for some 57% of nondefense federal R&D budget support in the United States in FY 2011 and 33% in the United Kingdom. For both countries, the share has expanded markedly over the share prevailing several decades ago. The health and environment share is currently 14% in South Korea and 10% or less in France, Germany, and Japan. The funding under this objective is predominantly health (in contrast to the environment) in the United States and mainly health in the United Kingdom (appendix table
The economic development objective encompasses agriculture, fisheries and forestry, industry, infrastructure, and energy. In the United States, government R&D funding in this category was 20% of all nondefense federal support for R&D in 1990, dropping to 11% in 2011 (table
The civil space objective now accounts for 14% of nondefense federal R&D funding in the United States (table
Both the nonoriented research fund and general university fund (GUF) objectives reflect government funding for R&D by academic, government, and other performers that is directed chiefly at the general advancement of knowledge in the natural sciences, engineering, social sciences, humanities, and related fields. For some of the countries, the sum of these two objectives currently represents by far the largest part of nondefense GBAORD: Japan (59%), Germany (58%), and the United Kingdom (52%). France (42%) and South Korea (31%) were below half but still sizable. The corresponding 2011 share for the United States (16%) was substantially smaller. Nevertheless, cross-national comparisons of these particular indicators can be difficult because some countries (notably the United States) do not use the GUF mechanism to fund R&D for general advancement of knowledge, do not separately account for GUF funding (e.g., South Korea), and/or more typically direct R&D funding to project-specific grants or contracts, which are then assigned to the more specific socioeconomic objectives (see the sidebar, “Government Funding Mechanisms for Academic Research”).
Finally, the education and society objective represents a comparatively small component of nondefense government R&D funding for all seven of the countries. However, it is notably higher in Germany (4%), France (5%), and the United Kingdom (4%) than in Japan (1%). The United States (3%) and South Korea (3%) are in between.