This section explains and illustrates some of the estimates from the NPRA Survey. Any comparisons made among estimates are done to aid in understanding and provide context. As stated in the disclaimer, data presented in this working paper do not meet the quality criteria outlined in NCSES's statistical standards. NCSES does not consider all the estimates in this report to be official statistics.
Nationally, nonprofit organizations spent an estimated $22.6 billion on R&D performed in house in FY 2016 (table A-1), which would be equivalent to 4.2% of the total spent on R&D in the United States in 2016. When the survey was last conducted in 1997, nonprofits spent $7.3 billion on R&D, or 3% of the U.S. R&D total.
One of the largest funding sources for the FY 2016 expenditures was the federal government, contributing $8.3 billion, or 36%, to the total (figure A) (see section "Refinement of the final estimates" for details on comparable totals from the Federal Funds Survey). Nonprofits funded $6.7 billion (30%) of their research themselves and received an additional 16% ($3.5 billion) in funding from other foundations and nonprofits.
Of the $22.6 billion spent in FY 2016, health and medical nonprofits were responsible for 64%, or $14.6 billion (table A-1). Likewise, 68% of the total was spent on R&D within biological, biomedical, and health sciences (table A-2). The next highest percentage of the total (13%) was spent in the field of psychology and social sciences.
The FY 2016 survey asked nonprofits to characterize their R&D activities by type of R&D: basic research, applied research, or experimental development. They reported 33% for basic research projects, 48% for applied research, and 18% for experimental development (figure B and table A-3). The proportion of basic versus applied research has shifted significantly since the last survey results in 1997, when nonprofits reported 55% of their total was basic research and 30% was applied research. The percentage reported for experimental development remained more stable (16% in 1997).
In FY 2016, U.S. nonprofits performing R&D employed 32,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) researchers and 52,000 technicians and support staff (table A-4), out of roughly 1,700,000 total FTEs. They reported receiving assistance with their R&D activities from nearly 26,000 unpaid volunteers and over 10,000 contract employees (both measured by headcount).
U.S. nonprofits provided an estimated $10.5 billion in R&D funding to others via grants or subcontracts in FY 2016 (table A-5). Over $8 billion was provided as grants or contracts for R&D activities managed by the funding recipients, the remainder was provided via subcontracts and subawards for work supporting the R&D performed by the nonprofits.
Almost half of the total funding (48%) came from the nonprofits themselves (figure C). The next two largest sources of funding were the federal government ($1.9 billion, or 18%) and individual donors ($1.5 billion, or 14%).
Half (49%) of the R&D performed by external organizations was characterized as basic research (figure D). There was a large difference in this ratio depending on the funding source. The majority of nonfederally funded R&D was characterized as basic research (55%), compared with only 22% of the federally funded R&D.
Of the types of organizations receiving the funding, 72% were universities or other educational entities and 17% were other nonprofits (table A-6). The remaining 10% of funding went to businesses (8%) and all other types of organizations (2%).
The majority (61%) of the R&D funding provided to external organizations was again in the field of biological, biomedical, and health sciences, at $6.4 billion. The next largest field was geosciences, atmospheric sciences, and ocean sciences, at $960 million (table A-8).
 See https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/2020/nsf20309/ for the latest statistics from National Patterns of R&D Resources on total U.S. R&D performance and source of funding. The model-based estimates from National Patterns of R&D Resources for nonprofit R&D performance in 2016 was $21.3 billion, or 4.1% of the U.S. total.
 To view the definitions provided to the respondents, see p.10 of the questionnaire at https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/srvynpra/surveys/2016-npra-survey.pdf.