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U.S. R&D: Funding and Performance

Why is this important?

Businesses, government, academia, and nonprofit organizations all fund and perform R&D. The outcomes and benefits depend not only on the total funds devoted to R&D but also on the types of R&D these funds support—basic research, applied research, and development.

Key observations:

Funding sources for U.S. development and applied research: 1990–2011


Development and applied research

Resources for development and applied research—work that aims at practical application, new products, or novel processes—rose in 2011, propelled by a nearly $21 billion increase in industry funding. Industry provides the largest share of funding for development and applied research.

Performers of U.S. development and applied research: 1990–2011

(PERCENT)
NOTE: The data for federal government are intramural only.

SEI 2014: Performers of R&D and R&D, by Character of Work, Chapter 4.

Development and applied research

Industry also performs the largest share by far of the nation's development and applied research. The federal government and academic and other nonprofit institutions perform the remainder.

Funding sources for U.S. basic research: 1990–2011


Basic research

Basic research is directed primarily toward increasing knowledge or understanding and has long relied on federal government support. Federal funding for basic research, however, has mostly dropped since 2004. Although funding from academic and other nonprofit institutions combined has exceeded that from industry throughout the past decade, industry funding for basic research has risen overall since 2006.

Performers of U.S. basic research: 1990–2011

(PERCENT)
NOTE: The data for federal government are intramural only.

SEI 2014: Performers of R&D and R&D, by Character of Work, Chapter 4.

Basic research

Universities and colleges are the prime performers of the nation's basic research, a role they uniquely combine with the training of new researchers. Industry's share of basic research performance has recently risen after years of decline; the federal government's share has gradually diminished.

Funding sources for U.S. academic R&D: 1990–2012

(PERCENT)

Academic R&D

Most of the R&D performed by the academic sector is basic research. Funding sources for academic R&D have been relatively stable for nearly two decades, with the federal government continuing to fund about 60% of academic R&D, and institutions' own funds constituting the next largest share.

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