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Global R&D: Measuring Commitment to Innovation

Why is this important?

Innovation in the form of new goods, services, or processes builds new knowledge and technology, contributes to national competitiveness, improves livings standard, and furthers social welfare. Research and development is a major driver of innovation. R&D expenditures indicate the priority given to advancing science and technology relative to other national goals.

Key observations:

Estimated R&D expenditures worldwide: 1996–2011


How much?

R&D expenditures worldwide are estimated to have exceeded $1.4 trillion in 2011, up from $753 billion a decade earlier.

Regional share of worldwide R&D expenditures: 1996 and 2011

NOTE: Asia/Pacific includes China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

SEI 2014: Global Pattern of R&D Expenditures, Chapter 4.


Global R&D expenditures are highly concentrated in three regions: Asia, North America, and Europe.

Domestic R&D expenditures for selected countries: 1996–2011



The seven countries with the largest R&D expenditures together accounted for nearly
three-fourths of total global R&D in 2011. The United States remains the largest R&D performer and accounted for almost one-third of worldwide R&D total in 2011. China is now the second largest R&D performing nation, accounting for about 15% of the worldwide total.

Contributions of selected countries/regions/economies to growth of worldwide
R&D expenditures: 2001–11

NOTE: Other Asia includes India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, and Thailand.

SEI 2014: Global Pattern of R&D Expenditures, Chapter 4.


Asian countries have led the growth in worldwide R&D expenditures over the past decade, with China accounting for about one-fourth of the total global growth.

Average annual growth in domestic R&D expenditures of selected countries/economies: 2001–11



Asian countries have led the pace of R&D expansion as well. Between 2001 and 2011, China's R&D expanded the most rapidly followed by South Korea. By comparison, the pace of growth has been much slower in the United States and the European Union. Rapid R&D growth in Asia overall reflects private spending by domestic and foreign firms as well as increased public R&D spending.

R&D expenditures as a share of economic output for selected countries/economies: 1996–2011



R&D intensity is the proportion of a country's economic activity (gross domestic product) devoted to R&D investment. Historically, Japan has had higher R&D intensity than most other large economies, but South Korea recently surpassed it.

China's R&D intensity has increased sharply since the mid-1990s, as growth in R&D outpaced a rapid expansion in GDP. China's R&D intensity is approaching that of the European Union but remains well below South Korea, Japan, and the United States.

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