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News Release 18-109

Higher education research and development expenditures increased 4.7 percent from FY2016 to FY2017

Investment in basic research continued gradual decline

Higher education research and development expenditures increased 4.7 percent from FY2016 to FY2017

Higher education research and development expenditures increased 4.7 percent from FY2016 to FY2017

December 3, 2018

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

Funding of higher education research and development (R&D) in the United States reached $75.3 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2017, an increase of 4.7 percent from FY2016.

Federal funding of R&D increased in both current and constant dollars, the first such consecutive increase since the peak of expenditures from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 between FY2009 and FY2011. These data are from the Higher Education Research and Development (HERD) Survey, conducted by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics within the National Science Foundation.

The federal government continued to provide the highest share of funding -- 53.5 percent in FY2017. That share was nearly the same as FY2016 (54 percent), but also the lowest since the survey began in 1953.

R&D expenditures funded from universities' own sources reached nearly $19 billion in FY2017. This total accounted for 25 percent of total higher education R&D. The total amount and the share are the largest since the advent of the survey.

The share of dollars spent by universities on basic research has gradually declined since FY2010. Basic research accounted for about 62 percent of expenditures in FY2017, compared to about 66 percent in FY2010.

In FY2017, shares for applied research and experimental development increased to 28.5 percent and 9.6 percent respectively. Those figures were an increase over FY2010 numbers, when applied research accounted for 25 percent and experimental development almost 9 percent. While both federal and nonfederal sources funded similar shares of applied research (about 28 percent) in FY2017, a higher proportion of federal funding (63.7 percent) was devoted to basic research.

Two-thirds of the $3.4 billion growth in R&D expenditures for FY2017 stemmed from increases in the life sciences subfields of biological and biomedical sciences (up $664 million) and health sciences (up $1.6 million).

Johns Hopkins University reported the largest R&D expenditures ($2.5 billion). This amount includes expenditures for the Applied Physics Laboratory. The University of Michigan, with expenditures of $1.5 billion, and the University of California, San Francisco, with $1.4 billion, followed.

The fiscal year referred to throughout this report is the academic fiscal year, typically July 1 through June 30.

For more information and data tables, please see the report.


Media Contacts
Stanley Dambroski, NSF, (703) 292-7728, email:

Program Contacts
Michael T. Gibbons, NSF, (703) 292-4590, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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