Globally, R&D performance has increased at a relatively high rate over the past decade and a half, averaging 6.7% annually. Worldwide R&D performance (measured as expenditures) totaled an estimated $1.918 trillion (current PPP dollars) in 2015, the latest global total available. The comparable figure for 2010 was $1.415 trillion, and $722 billion in 2000.

U.S. R&D increased to $495.1 billion in 2015 (Table 4-1; Appendix Table 4-1), which represented 26% of the global total that year. The comparable U.S. figure for 2010 was $406.6 billion and $268.0 billion in 2000. The United States remains the world’s largest R&D performer. Nonetheless, investments in R&D by other countries—particularly those in Asia—continue to increase, further eroding the longstanding U.S. lead. China ($408.8 billion of R&D in 2015) has now moved well ahead of Japan ($170.0 billion) as the second largest R&D-performing nation (Table 4-5). Countries or economies of the East/Southeast and South Asian regions accounted for 25% of the global total in 2000 but rose to a striking 40% in 2015. EU countries accounted for 25% of the global total in 2000 but dropped to 20% in 2015.

In 2008, just ahead of the onset of the main economic effects of the national/international financial crisis and the Great Recession, U.S. R&D totaled $404.8 billion. The total was an estimated $495.1 billion at the end of 2015. Adjusted for inflation, the annual expansion of R&D over the 2008–15 period averaged 1.4%, compared with GDP at 1.5% over the same period (Table 4-2). Further, removing the deepest of the Great Recession years (2009 and 2010), the annual growth of R&D averaged 2.3%, compared to 2.2% for GDP. On these numbers, the period since 2008 remains an uncharacteristically slow pattern of R&D expansion -- compared with 3.6% for R&D versus 2.2% for GDP over the decade immediately prior (1998–2008).