Research and Development

Does the United States spend the most on science and engineering research?

June 29, 2022

Yes, but we’re losing ground.

In terms of actual dollars, the Unites States spends more on science and engineering research than any other nation in the world. But, other countries are catching up.

Israel, South Korea, Taiwan, Sweden, Japan, Austria and Germany all outrank the United States in “R&D intensity”—the relationship between research spending and a country’s gross domestic product (GDP). China remains second to the United States in terms of actual dollars spent on research but has pledged to increase its research spending by 7% annually through 2025.

Combined public and private sector spending on science and engineering research reached a high in 2019 at 3.07% of U.S. GDP, but the growth in research investment is coming primarily from the private sector.

When it comes to federal government spending on research, in recent years the United States spent approximately 0.7% of GDP. That’s a significant drop from the approximately 2% of GDP spent during the height of the space race in the 1960s.

Key Takeaways

  1. 1.

    The United States spends the most in actual dollars on scientific research in the world, but many other countries spend a greater share of their GDP on research and others—notably China—are pledging to spend more.

  2. 2.

    Federal government spending on research as a percentage of GDP has hovered just above 0.7% for several years, a stark contrast to the 2% of GDP spent during the space race.

Additional Resource

American Association for the Advancement of Science: A Primer on Federal R&D Budget Trends