U.S. investment in global research and development falls

National Science Board report reveals U.S. share of R&D investment fell to 35 percent

The United States’ share of global technology research and development spending is eroding, while Asian countries are expanding those investments, according to a new report released by the White House.

The North American share of R&D investment dropped to 35 percent in 2007, from 40 percent in 1996, according to the Science and Engineering Indicators 2010 report. The report is released every two years by the National Science Board. Asia’s share rose to 31 percent, from 24 percent, and the European Union’s dropped to 28 percent, from 31 percent, according to the report.

Overall, world investment in research and development rose to $1.1 trillion in 2007, from $525 billion in 1996.

Of the 2007 total, the United States spent $369 billion; Asia, $338 billion; and the European Union, $263 billion.

The report also looks at global workforce trends. In the United States, more than one-half of the doctorates in natural sciences and engineering awarded in 2007 were earned by temporary and permanent visa holders from other nations.

Most of the global spending on research is by industry. The Obama administration last year sought $148 billion for federal research in fiscal 2010. President Barack Obama said he hoped to raise technology spending to 3 percent of the Gross Domestic Product.

"Chapter 4 of Indicators tells us that in 2007 the U.S. R&D/GDP [gross domestic product] ratio was 2.68 percent, with roughly one-third of that investment coming from federal funding and two-thirds from the private sector,"  Kei Koizumi, assistant director for federal research and development with the Office of Science and Technology Policy, wrote on the White House blog on Jan. 18. "The U.S. ranks eighth in the world in this measure among major economies, some of whom—such as Japan and South Korea — are already investing in excess of 3 percent. The Indicators report tells us why the goal is reasonable and prudent and how close we are to achieving it," Koizumi wrote.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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