Cross-National Comparisons of R&D Performance

Two key indicators of national R&D performance are gross domestic expenditures on R&D (GERD)—a measure of a country’s total R&D investment—and national R&D intensity (GERD-to-GDP ratio)—a measure of a country’s investment in R&D relative to its overall economic activity. Together, they paint a broad picture of the current distribution of global R&D activities and the changing global R&D landscape as countries build capabilities in science and technology to improve their national economy and society.

This section compares R&D performance in the United States with other major R&D-performing nations globally, including China, Japan, South Korea, France, Germany, India, and the United Kingdom as well as key regional and geopolitical groupings, such as the European Union (EU-27) and East-Southeast and South Asia. It also presents cross-national analyses of trends in the composition of R&D by sector and by R&D type.

The national R&D expenditures presented in this report are from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Main Science and Technology Indicators and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) Institute for Statistics. The global R&D total is estimated by NCSES based on these sources and reflects R&D performance by 119 countries with reported annual R&D expenditures of $50 million or more. These countries account for most of the current global R&D.

R&D expenditures for all countries are reported in current U.S. dollars (not adjusted for inflation) using purchasing power parities (PPPs). PPPs convert different currencies to a common currency while adjusting for differences in price levels between economies. The use of PPPs thus enables direct comparisons of R&D expenditures across countries. (See the Technical Appendix for more details.)

The regional analysis focuses on the regions with the largest R&D expenditures: North America (United States, Canada, and Mexico), Europe (including the EU-27 member countries), and the portion of Asia that includes the regions of East-Southeast Asia (including China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan), and South Asia (including India and Pakistan). The groupings of countries into regions are from The World Factbook (CIA 2021).

Country and Regional Patterns in Total National R&D, 2019

The estimated total for global R&D expenditures in 2019 is just over $2.4 trillion (Figure RD-5). Global R&D performance is concentrated in the following geographic regions: East-Southeast and South Asia (combined R&D expenditures of $955.0 billion, or a 39% share of global R&D), North America ($706.1 billion, or 29%), and Europe ($529.6 billion, or 22%). All other regions combined account for 10% of global R&D performance.

Global R&D expenditures, by region: 2019

(Billions of U.S. PPP dollars and percent)

PPP = purchasing power parity.

Note(s):

Foreign currencies are converted to dollars through PPPs. Some country data are estimated. Countries are grouped according to the regions described by The World Factbook (CIA 2021).

Source(s):

National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, estimates as of December 2021. Based on data from Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Main Science and Technology Indicators (September 2021 edition), and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Institute for Statistics, Science Technology and Innovation data set (March 2021 release).

Science and Engineering Indicators

R&D performance is even more concentrated when comparing individual countries. The United States and China lead R&D performance globally, jointly accounting for half of global R&D (Figure RD-6). The United States performed $668.4 billion (28%) of global R&D in 2019. China followed, with $525.7 billion (22%) of global R&D.

Keyboard instructions

GERD and R&D intensity for world's top 17 R&D-performing countries and economies: 2019 or most recent data year

(Billions of U.S. PPP dollars and percent)
Country or economy GERD (billions of U.S. PPP dollars) National R&D intensity (percent)
United States 668.4 3.13
China 525.7 2.23
Japan 173.3 3.20
Germany 148.1 3.19
South Korea 102.5 4.64
France 73.3 2.20
India (2018) 58.7 0.65
United Kingdom 56.9 1.76
Russia 44.5 1.04
Taiwan 44.0 3.49
Italy 39.3 1.47
Brazil (2018) 36.3 1.16
Canada 30.3 1.59
Spain 24.9 1.25
Turkey 24.2 1.06
Netherlands 22.6 2.18
Australia (2017) 22.4 1.79

GERD = gross domestic expenditure on R&D; PPP = purchasing power parity.

Note(s):

Top 17 R&D-performing countries or economies (based on annual GERD). Data for most countries are from 2019; data for India, Brazil, and Australia are 1 year or 2 years earlier. National R&D intensity is the ratio of gross domestic expenditures on R&D to gross domestic product.

Source(s):

National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, National Patterns of R&D Resources (2019–20 edition); Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Main Science and Technology Indicators (September 2021 edition); United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Institute for Statistics, Science Technology and Innovation data set (March 2021 release).

Science and Engineering Indicators

The next tier of top R&D performers includes Japan (7% of global R&D), Germany (6%), and South Korea (4%), each with R&D expenditures above $100 billion. Together with the United States and China, these countries accounted for two-thirds of global R&D in 2019.

France, India, and the United Kingdom make up the third tier of top R&D performers, each with R&D expenditures above $50 billion, or around 2%–3% of the global R&D total. The fourth tier includes Russia, Taiwan, Italy, and Brazil, each with R&D expenditures from $36 billion to $45 billion, or 1.5%–2.0% of the global R&D total. Canada, Spain, Turkey, the Netherlands, and Australia follow, with R&D expenditures between $22 billion and $30 billion, or about 1% of the global R&D total each.

These top 17 R&D-performing countries collectively performed 87% of the global R&D in 2019 (Figure RD-6). Many other countries also perform R&D but do so at a comparatively much smaller scale (Table RD-5).

International comparisons of gross domestic expenditures on R&D and R&D share of gross domestic product, by region, country, or economy: 2019 or most recent year

(Millions of U.S. PPP dollars and percent)

GDP = gross domestic product; GERD = gross domestic expenditure on R&D; G20 = Group of Twenty; OECD = Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development; PPP = purchasing power parity.

a Data for U.S. GERD differ slightly from the U.S. total R&D data tabulated earlier in this report. For better consistency with international standards, U.S. GERD includes federal capital funding for federal intramural and nonprofit R&D, in addition to what is reported as U.S. total R&D.

b Data for the European Union (EU) include the 27 EU member countries.

Note(s):

Year of data is listed in parentheses. Foreign currencies are converted to dollars through PPPs. Countries in this table have an annual GERD of $500 million or more. Countries are grouped according to the regions described by The World Factbook (CIA 2021). Data for Israel are civilian R&D only. See sources below for GERD statistics on additional countries.

Source(s):

National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, National Patterns of R&D Resources (2019–20 edition); Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Main Science and Technology Indicators (September 2021 edition); United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Institute for Statistics, Science Technology and Innovation data set (March 2021 release).

Science and Engineering Indicators