by Ronda Britt[1]

​The nation's 40 federally funded R&D centers (FFRDCs) spent $16.9 billion on research and development in FY 2013, according to data from the National Science Foundation's National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES).[2] The majority of the FFRDCs (24 centers) reported declines from FY 2012, and 17 reported two straight years of declines between FY 2011 and FY 2013 (table 1).

TABLE 1. Total R&D expenditures at federally funded research and development centers, by FFRDC: FYs 2009–13
(Current $thousands)

na = not applicable. 

FFRDC = federally funded research and development center.

a R&D expenditures decreased in FY 2011 due to removal of expenditures for capital projects. In this survey, R&D expenditures do not include capital projects. In previous years, some FFRDCs included capital expenditures in their R&D totals. Previous years include an unknown amount of capital expenditures, estimated to be less than $500 million per year.
b R&D expenditures reported by Los Alamos National Laboratory decreased in FY 2013 due to the removal of expenditures that were not for R&D as defined by this survey. Previous years include an unknown amount of expenditures not for R&D.
c On 1 October 2011, National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center was decertified as an FFRDC.

SOURCE: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, FFRDC Research and Development Survey.

Table 1 Source Data: Excel file

FFRDC 2009 2010 2011a 2012 2013
All FFRDCs 16,390,111 18,044,105 17,808,614 17,446,036 16,866,544
Aerospace FFRDC 41,470 44,149 45,827 39,746 34,428
Ames Lab. 29,012 30,836 32,442 33,853 34,234
Argonne National Lab. 543,169 650,504 710,435 679,387 708,501
Arroyo Ctr. 27,692 28,647 32,180 31,278 32,789
Brookhaven National Lab. 569,240 535,546 526,571 516,921 529,634
Ctr. for Advanced Aviation System Development 133,869 149,686 165,645 159,311 146,860
Ctr. for Communications and Computing 66,293 71,927 72,600 62,600 51,477
Ctr. for Enterprise Modernization 181,958 170,460 187,785 226,539 202,319
Ctr. for Naval Analyses 109,694 109,068 85,165 91,628 86,132
Ctr. for Nuclear Waste Regulatory Analyses 16,614 15,346 16,377 13,147 12,331
Ctrs. for Medicare and Medicaid Services Alliance to Modernize Healthcare na na na na 17,521
Fermi National Accelerator Lab. 376,791 402,658 420,119 412,438 376,472
Frederick National Lab. for Cancer Research 378,200 643,935 431,600 430,100 433,900
Homeland Security Studies and Analysis Institute 32,173 33,402 36,870 30,213 22,452
Homeland Security Systems Engineering and Development Institute 3,387 58,715 85,154 77,159 75,530
ID National Lab. 388,062 478,356 425,072 536,399 496,818
Jet Propulsion Lab. 1,711,528 1,640,341 1,543,969 1,493,613 1,519,258
Judiciary Engineering and Modernization Ctr. na na 4,650 5,309 6,399
Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. 611,711 759,381 788,386 767,554 768,563
Lawrence Livermore National Lab. 1,321,633 1,370,747 1,424,993 1,353,454 1,313,293
Lincoln Lab. 706,555 789,502 822,358 873,104 872,298
Los Alamos National Lab.b 2,172,179 2,505,913 2,307,197 2,056,878 1,708,000
National Astronomy and Ionosphere Ctr.c 14,738 13,203 14,317 na na
National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Ctr. 19,934 50,058 41,786 31,201 29,849
National Ctr. for Atmospheric Research 203,627 220,328 198,231 169,743 172,527
National Defense Research Institute 42,265 51,652 46,330 53,832 59,460
National Optical Astronomy Observatory 56,972 57,145 47,889 46,557 40,669
National Radio Astronomy Observatory 151,396 137,607 81,305 79,168 93,253
National Renewable Energy Lab. 273,640 326,652 386,539 398,873 347,368
National Security Engineering Ctr. 939,312 925,027 941,187 946,737 928,614
Oak Ridge National Lab. 1,259,259 1,538,412 1,558,073 1,553,460 1,451,684
Pacific Northwest National Lab. 1,064,230 1,116,648 1,095,923 1,033,768 934,491
Princeton Plasma Physics Lab. 81,113 83,932 84,863 81,389 85,088
Project Air Force 45,162 43,957 44,171 41,031 36,003
SLAC National Accelerator Lab. 294,421 354,393 327,716 329,747 327,005
Sandia National Labs. 2,043,509 2,157,022 2,277,166 2,293,307 2,412,476
Savannah River National Lab. 130,292 127,160 134,530 132,357 115,857
Science and Technology Policy Institute 5,100 6,000 8,700 7,547 5,010
Software Engineering Institute 89,077 99,334 107,837 113,371 134,973
Systems and Analyses Ctr. 166,000 156,000 156,200 149,150 142,977
Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility 88,834 90,456 90,456 94,167 100,031

​FFRDCs are privately operated R&D organizations that are exclusively or substantially financed by the federal government.[3] Federal funding has consistently accounted for over 96% of FFRDC's total R&D expenditures since 2001 (figure 1), but these federally funded expenditures have been declining since a high of $18 billion reported in FY 2010. This high corresponded to the peak of award spending from the one-time American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), which topped $1 billion in FY 2010 (table 2). By FY 2013, most of the funding from ARRA had been spent, leaving only $170 million in ARRA-funded expenditures, 1% of the federally funded total.

FIGURE 1. R&D expenditures at federally funded research and development centers, by source of funds: FYs 2001–13.

  Figure 1 Source Data: Excel file

TABLE 2. Total and ARRA-funded R&D expenditures at federally funded research and development centers: FYs 2010–13
(Current $millions)

ARRA = American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

SOURCE: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, FFRDC Research and Development Survey.

Table 2 Source Data: Excel file

Fiscal year All federal
R&D
expenditures
ARRA-funded
R&D
expenditures
2010 17,591 1,026
2011 17,385 749
2012 17,006 346
2013 16,455 170

​R&D spending within the 40 FFRDCs is highly concentrated, with 5 FFRDCs responsible for half of the total reported (a combined $8.4 billion in FY 2013): the National Aeronautics and Space Administration sponsored Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and four Department of Energy sponsored National Labs specializing in national security and nuclear science: Sandia, Oak Ridge, Los Alamos, and Lawrence Livermore (table 1).

​In FY 2013, basic research activities accounted for 24.8% of total FFRDC R&D expenditures (table 3), representing a significant drop from the previous year's percentage of 35.2%. A major contributor to the decrease was a re-evaluation of the reported distribution of activities by Los Alamos National Laboratory. Another 40.2% was spent on applied research, and the remaining 35.0% on development activities. University-administered FFRDCs spent the largest share on basic research (41.0%), nonprofit-administered FFRDCs devoted their largest share to development (43.2%), and industry-administered FFRDCs spent the bulk of their total on applied research activities (60.9%).

TABLE 3. R&D expenditures at federally funded research and development centers, by character of work and type of FFRDC: FY 2013

FFRDC = federally funded research and development center.

SOURCE: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, FFRDC Research and Development Survey, FY 2013.

Table 3 Source Data: Excel file

FFRDC All R&D
expenditures
Basic
research
Applied
research
Development
Current $thousands
All FFRDCs 16,866,544 4,184,318 6,779,960 5,902,266
University administered 5,232,872 2,146,723 1,412,173 1,673,976
Nonprofit administered 5,146,929 1,502,956 1,418,791 2,225,182
Industry administered 6,486,743 534,639 3,948,996 2,003,108
Percent distribution
All FFRDCs 100.0 24.8 40.2 35.0
University administered 100.0 41.0 27.0 32.0
Nonprofit administered 100.0 29.2 27.6 43.2
Industry administered 100.0 8.2 60.9 30.9

Data Sources, Limitations, and Availability

​The statistics on FFRDC R&D presented in this report come from the FY 2013 NSF FFRDC R&D Survey. This annual survey is completed by FFRDC administrators and collects data from FFRDCs on R&D expenditures by source of funds (federal, state and local, business, nonprofit organizations, or other), character of work (basic research, applied research, or development), and type of cost (salaries, software, equipment, subcontracts, or indirect costs). This survey has been a census of the full population of FFRDCs since FY 2001.

​The full set of data tables from this survey are available at http://ncsesdata.nsf.gov/ffrdc/2013/. For further information, please contact the author.

Notes

[1] Ronda Britt, Research and Development Statistics Program, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 965, Arlington, VA 22230 (rbritt@nsf.gov; 703-292-7765).

[2] The number of FFRDCs increased from 39 to 40 in FY 2013 due to the creation of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Alliance to Modernize Healthcare on 27 September 2012.

[3] Several FFRDCs are prohibited from accepting nonfederal R&D funding. For a description of the federal guidelines and definitions governing FFRDCs, see the "General Notes" section of the NSF's Master Government List of FFRDCs at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/ffrdclist/#gennotes. The Master Government List of FFRDCs is accessible at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/ffrdclist/.