New R&D Data Show US Slipping In Global Tech Power Against China

Science & Engineering IndicatorsIn another telling indicator of America’s slide as the uncontested global tech power, a new report by the National Science Board finds that while the U.S. remains the top spender in research and development, its share of R&D investments globally has declined to 25% while that other superpower ─ China ─ has gained to 23%.

Since 2000, the U.S. global share of R&D has declined from 37%, growing modestly by an average 4.3% annually. China’s dramatic increases in R&D spending, meanwhile, contributed one-third of total growth globally. China bypassed Europe, Japan, Germany and France, which it had trailed at the turn of the century, in R&D expenditures.

These new findings also represent a regional shift in support of new technologies and scientific breakthroughs. Asian countries including seven economic leaders now exceed the U.S. and EU in share of global spending in R&D, increasing their portion from 25% to 42% since 2000.

It is hard to ignore that while that the U.S., once the uncontested leader in science and engineering, is now playing a less dominant role.

“To remain a leader,” said NSB Chair Diane Souvaine, “we need to tap into our American ‘can do’ spirit and recommit to strong partnerships among government, universities, and industry that have been the hallmarks of our success. I believe we should react with excitement, not fear, because we are well positioned to compete, collaborate, and thrive.”

She underscored the important of federal funding for R&D, as an important source of the nation’s basic and applied research expertise. But she noted that the Federal government’s share of R&D funding has declined since 2000 while business has remained the largest funder of total R&D (70%) in the U.S. since the 1980s.

Most of that business spending has been on experimental development, aimed at producing new products or processes or improving existing ones rather than basic and applied research that seeks to create new knowledge.  Notably, the bulk of China’s R&D spending is in experimental development as well.

This latest report notes that Federal government funded 38% ($76 billion) of U.S. basic and applied research in 2017 while the business sector accounted for 43% ($85 billion).

As issues of American competitiveness become more widely debated and highlighted, the congressionally mandated report, Science and Engineering Indicators  will change from a single report released every two years to a series of streamlined reports published on a rolling basis.