Battelle issues modest R&D forecast

Battelle Memorial Institute

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Federal government spending on research and development activities will increase by 1.8 percent, to $96.6 billion, according to the Battelle Memorial Institute's annual funding forecast.

Funding, however, will not increase governmentwide with the exception of a few initiatives, such as space exploration and energy development, according to Battelle. Some terrorism-related and national defense initiatives in the Homeland Security and Defense departments continue to generate federal R&D spending.

Initial R&D budget increases after the 2001 terrorist attacks have “not continued at the accelerated pace established just four years ago, and the overall significant expansion of federal funds for R&D is not expected to continue in the near term,” according to the forecast.

Battelle, which is a global, nonprofit science and technology company, predicted that overall R&D spending would hit nearly $329 billion in 2006.

In addition to the federal increases, industry R&D expenditures are projected to rise to $211.6 billion, representing a 3.5 percent hike. Higher education and nonprofit organizations combined will spend $20.4 billion, a 2.2 percent increase.

Jules Duga, the forecast’s co-author and senior research leader at Battelle, said in a statement that anticipated cuts in federal spending do not bode well for the support of initiatives meant to return the United States to prominent positions in science and technology.

Reduced government funding of U.S. industrial R&D is another possibility due to a growing federal deficit, the cost of U.S. military operations worldwide and rebuilding costs after several natural disasters, according to the forecast.

Battelle said industry and government face serious shortfalls in experienced researchers and managers as the baby boom generation reaches retirement age.

“This loss of personnel should be viewed in terms of other events that are emerging, such as major increases in the numbers of qualified scientists and engineers in other countries [notably China and India], a decline in the international standing of U.S. students in math and science, a lack of public understanding of science and technology, and a continuing conflict relative to the science curriculum,” according to the forecast.

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