U.S. R&D increased in 2013, outpacing GDP

U.S. expenditures in research and development rose to $456.1 billion in 2013–a $20.7 billion increase over the previous year, according to a new report from the National Science Foundation’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics.

The research and development (R&D) system in the U.S. is comprised of multiple performers, including businesses, the federal government, non-federal government, universities and colleges and other nonprofit organizations. Organizations that perform R&D often receive significant levels of outside funding.

The business sector continues to be the largest performer of R&D in the U.S., accounting for $322.5 billion, or 71 percent, of total national expenditures. That figure represents a $20.3 billion increase over the previous year. The business sector’s predominance is a longstanding trend; from 1993 to 2013, its annual share ranged from 68 percent to 74 percent.

Universities and colleges accounted for the second-highest performance in 2013, with $64.7 billion, or 14 percent, of total U.S. R&D expenditures. The education sector has a special niche in the nation’s R&D system: universities and colleges performed 51 percent of the nation’s basic research in 2013.

The federal government conducted $49.9 billion, or 11 percent of the country’s R&D in 2013, including $33 billion performed by agencies and in their own facilities and $16.8 billion by 40 federally funded R&D centers. While federal R&D saw yearly increases of between $1 billion and $2 billion from 2008 to 2011, its 2013 total was a $1.5 billion decrease from the previous year.

Other nonprofits performed an estimated $18.6 billion in R&D in 2013, or 4 percent of total U.S. expenditures.

Most of the U.S. total for R&D in 2013–$285 billion, or 63 percent–went toward development. Basic research activities accounted for $80.5 billion, or 18 percent, of total expenditures. Applied research accounted for $90.6 billion, or 20 percent.