Business Research and Development and Innovation: 2015
The Business R&D and Innovation Survey (BRDIS) is the primary source of information on domestic and global research and development expenditures and the R&D workforce for companies operating in the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The survey is conducted annually by the U.S. Census Bureau in accordance with an interagency agreement with the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) within the National Science Foundation (NSF). The BRDIS questionnaires, reports, and data can be found at https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/industry/.
The results of the survey are used to assess trends in the performance and funding of R&D. Government agencies, corporations, and research organizations use the data to investigate productivity, formulate tax policy, and compare individual company performance with industry averages. Individual researchers in industry and academia use the data to investigate a variety of topics and to prepare professional papers, dissertations, and books. Total R&D expenditure statistics are used by the Bureau of Economic Analysis for inclusion in its System of National Accounts and Foreign Direct Investment programs.
Further, the BRDIS statistics make it possible to evaluate more fully the status of R&D in the United States and to compare the R&D and innovation activities of the United States with those of other nations. The usefulness of the information collected in this survey is enhanced by linking it to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Longitudinal Establishment and Enterprise Microdata file, which contains information on the outputs and inputs of companies’ manufacturing plants. Response to this survey is mandatory and confidential under Title 13 of the United States Code.
In conducting BRDIS, data are collected from a probability sample of for-profit companies, which are classified in select manufacturing and nonmanufacturing industries. BRDIS is administered both to companies known to have performed R&D and to companies with no known history of R&D activity. The survey is sent to a single coordinator within each company, but it is organized into sections that help the coordinator collect specific types of information from different experts (human resources, accounting, R&D managers, etc.) in the company. Foreign-owned companies are instructed to report only for company operations owned by the U.S. subsidiary and, for purposes of the survey, to treat the foreign owners as if they were unrelated third parties.
The target population for BRDIS consists of all for-profit companies that have five or more paid employees in the United States, that have at least one establishment that is in business during the survey year and is located in the United States, and that are classified in certain industries, with a particular focus on those companies that perform R&D in the United States. A company is defined as one or more establishments under common domestic ownership or control.
The U.S. Census Bureau’s Business Register contains information on more than 3 million establishments with paid employees. It serves as the primary input to the sample frame from which the sample is selected. For companies with more than one establishment, data are summed to the company level to assign an industry classification code and a measure of size, which are used in designing the sample. Companies are excluded from the frame if they are classified in an industry that is outside the scope of BRDIS or have fewer than five employees, based on their prior-year aggregated annual payroll and employment data.
In addition to single-year tables for 2015, this report includes tables containing statistics for multiple years. In these tables, most prior-year statistics have been revised since originally published. Revised statistics include adjustments based on information obtained after the original statistics were prepared. For any given year, after the tables are published, the statistical file used to produce the tables stays open for about 1 year before it is permanently closed. During that year, respondents may provide updated data; also, information from other U.S. Census Bureau surveys or publicly available sources may become available. The new data and information are evaluated and tested; if appropriate, revisions are made to the statistical file. The multiyear tables in this report (table 69 through table 76) were prepared using the 2015 statistical file and revised statistical files for 2008–14.
Terms used in business accounting and incorporated throughout the tables are defined in the section Technical Notes.
Purpose. The Business R&D and Innovation Survey (BRDIS) is the primary source of information on research and development expenditures and the R&D workforce of businesses operating in the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
Data Collection Authority. The information collected by BRDIS is solicited under the authority of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Act of 1950, as amended, and the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010. Response to this annual survey is mandatory and confidential; the U.S. Census Bureau collects the data under the authority of Title 13, Section 8 of the United States Code. The Office of Management and Budget control number is 0607-0912 and expires on 29 Feb 2020.
Survey Sponsors. BRDIS is co-sponsored by NCSES and the U.S. Census Bureau.
Survey Collection and Tabulation Agent. The survey is conducted annually by the U.S. Census Bureau in accordance with an interagency agreement with the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) within the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Key Survey Information
Initial survey year. BRDIS began collecting data for calendar year 2008 after replacing the Survey of Industrial Research and Development (SIRD) that collected data for 1953–2007.
Reference period. Calendar year 2015.
Response unit. Company.
Sample or census. Sample.
Population size. 2,029,436 companies.
Sample size. 44,824 companies.
The survey is administered both to companies known to have performed R&D and to companies with no known history of R&D activity. BRDIS has been designed to provide detailed statistics on global and domestic R&D expenditures of companies located in the United States and on these companies’ R&D employees, intellectual property, technology transfer, and innovation activities.
The survey is sent to a single coordinator within each company, but it is organized into sections that help the coordinator collect specific types of information from different experts (human resources, accounting, R&D managers, etc.) in the company. Foreign-owned companies are instructed to report only for company operations owned by the U.S. subsidiary and, for purposes of the survey, to treat the U.S. subsidiary’s foreign owners as if they were unrelated third parties.
The target population for BRDIS consists of all for-profit companies that have five or more paid employees in the United States, that have at least one establishment that is in business during the survey year and is located in the United States, and that are classified in certain industries based on the 2012 North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), with a particular focus on those companies that perform R&D in the United States.
The Business Register, a U.S. Census Bureau compilation that contains information on more than 3 million establishments with paid employees, serves as the primary input to the sample frame from which the sample is selected. For a given company with more than one establishment, the prior year’s annual payroll and employment data for its active establishments are summed to the company level. Companies are excluded from the frame if they are classified in a NAICS industry that is outside the scope of BRDIS. Additionally, companies are excluded from the frame if their payroll is less than $250,000 and they have fewer than five employees, based on their prior year’s aggregated annual payroll and employment data.
The scope of the 2015 BRDIS is limited to companies that (1) are in business primarily to make a profit; (2) are classified within a specific set of NAICS industries; (3) have five or more paid employees in the United States, based on employment on 12 March 2014; (4) have at least one establishment that is physically located in the United States and is in business at the end of calendar year 2015 (the time at which the U.S. Census Bureau finished the 2014 Business Register processing); and (5) are not federally funded R&D centers.
Single-unit company records were extracted from the 2014 Business Register if the company’s 2014 payroll was greater than or equal to $250,000 or if the company had at least five paid employees in 2014. Companies were removed from the sample frame if their NAICS codes were designated as Crop Production (NAICS 111), Animal Production (NAICS 112), Postal Service (NAICS 491), Educational Services (NAICS 61), Private Households (NAICS 814), or Public Administration (NAICS 92) or if they were no longer in business or were nonprofits. Companies were also removed from the sample frame if they were not located in the 50 U.S. states or the District of Columbia.
Records for active establishments from multiunit companies were extracted from the 2014 Business Register if the given establishment’s 2014 payroll was greater than zero or if the establishment employed at least one person in 2014. Prior to creating records for multiunit companies from these establishments, establishments classified as Postal Service (NAICS 491), Private Households (NAICS 814), or Public Administration (NAICS 92) were removed, as were those that were not physically located in the 50 U.S. states or the District of Columbia. Unlike single-unit companies, establishments classified as Crop Production (NAICS 111), Animal Production (NAICS 112), or Educational Services (NAICS 61) were not removed during the construction of multiunit company records. From the resulting set of multiunit companies, companies were removed from the sample frame if their payroll was less than $250,000 and they had fewer than five paid employees or if the payroll associated with their nonprofit establishments was greater than the payroll of their for-profit establishments.
For each company on the sample frame, a measure of size was assigned. The measure of size for a given company was based on R&D, if R&D data from the last 5 years were available from (1) BRDIS, (2) online financial databases, (3) the Bureau of Economic Analysis’s Benchmark Survey of U.S. Direct Investment Abroad or Annual Survey of Foreign Direct Investment in the United States, (4) the Report of Organization conducted as part of the Company Organization Survey (in years not ending in “2” or “7”) or as a supplement to the Economic Census (in years ending in “2” or “7”), or (5) qualified R&D expenses from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). For all other companies, the measure of size was based on total annual payroll for 2014 from the Business Register.
In the known positive R&D group, Pareto probability-proportional-to-size (PPS) sampling was used within each noncertainty industry stratum, where the probability of selection was proportional to the company’s measure of size. In the unknown R&D group, Pareto PPS sampling was typically used within each industry stratum, though simple random sampling was used for industries in which the number of companies in the sample frame was high and the likelihood of R&D was low.
Industry Classification for Sampling
Each company was assigned to 1 of 62 industry sampling strata based on the reported business segment in which the company performed the largest amount of total domestic R&D as reported in the prior period (2010–14 BRDIS), if available. If these business segment data were not reported for a given company, assignment is based on the NAICS codes of its establishments in the U.S. Census Bureau’s Business Register using the following method, with some adjustments made to take into account vertical integration of related business activities within the company. The company was first assigned to the economic sector, defined by a 2-digit NAICS code that accounted for the highest percentage of its aggregated annual payroll. Then the company was assigned to a subsector, defined by a 3-digit NAICS code that accounted for the highest percentage of its annual payroll within the economic sector. Then the company was assigned a 4-digit NAICS code within the subsector, again based on the highest percentage of its aggregated annual payroll within the subsector. Finally, the company was assigned a 6-digit NAICS code within the 4-digit NAICS, based on the highest percentage of its aggregated annual payroll within the 4-digit NAICS. The industry used for sampling purposes was not necessarily the same code used for publication; see section Post-sampling Industry Classification.
Stratification of the Sample Frame
Each company in an industry sampling stratum was further assigned to one of three R&D groups based on information about its prior domestic R&D activity: (1) companies with a positive value for the measure of size based on R&D (known positive R&D group), (2) companies with a zero value for the measure of size based on R&D (known zero R&D group), and (3) companies with unknown R&D activity (unknown R&D group). For 2015, there were 35,839 companies in the first group, 71,386 companies in the second group, and 1,922,211 companies in the third group, for a total of 2,029,436 companies (table A-1).
In the known zero R&D group, a single Pareto PPS sample was selected across all industry strata. Each sample by group had a certainty and noncertainty portion (table A-2). Companies that exhibited characteristics of large R&D companies, including those with the largest amounts of R&D or annual payroll, were selected for the sample with certainty (i.e., the probability of selection was equal to 1). The probability of selection for other companies in the known positive R&D and unknown R&D groups depended on their size, the number of companies selected, and the total size or number of companies in their industry strata. The number of companies selected was based on a coefficient of variation constraint on the estimated sample total for the industry stratum and was increased, if necessary, to ensure that the minimum probability of selection is 0.05 for the known positive R&D group and one of three values for the unknown R&D group—0.004 or 0.01 for Nonmanufacturing industries (NAICS other than 31–33) and Incomplete manufacturers (Incomplete NAICS beginning with 3), depending on the population size and likelihood of R&D, and 0.02 for Manufacturing (NAICS 31–33); Computer systems design and related services (NAICS 5415); Management, scientific, and technical consulting services (NAICS 5416); and Scientific research and development services (NAICS 5417). For the known zero R&D group, the probability of selection for other companies depended on their size and the number of companies selected. The number of companies selected was based on a coefficient of variation constraint and was increased, if necessary, to ensure that the minimum probability of selection is 0.02. Once selected, each company was assigned a sampling weight equal to the reciprocal of its probability of selection for the sample. Companies that were selected for the sample with certainty were assigned sampling weights equal to 1, and companies that were selected using random or Pareto PPS sampling were assigned weights ranging from 1 to 250. A complete and detailed description of the sample design and estimation methodology is given in the annual BRDIS methodology report available from the NCSES project officer.
With the above sample design parameters, a total of 44,824 companies were selected, of which 17,602 companies were in the known positive R&D group, 3,484 companies were in the known zero R&D group, and 23,738 companies were in the unknown R&D group (table A-3 and table A-4).
During the survey’s annual contact update procedures, 52 large R&D performers from the 2014 sample were found that were not included on the 2015 sample frame. To follow up, records for these companies were added to the 2015 sample with certainty. Because it was expected that many of these records would not contribute to 2015 BRDIS tabulations due to changes in company structure, these companies are not included in sample frame counts or sample sizes (table A-5).
Data Collection and Processing Methods
In addition to paper questionnaires, an electronic mode of data reporting via the U.S. Census Bureau’s Centurion data collection instrument was available to all BRDIS respondents. Respondents were made aware of Centurion in BRDIS-related correspondence and transmittals from the U.S. Census Bureau. For paper versus electronic response rates, see section Response by Mode.
For the 2015 cycle of BRDIS, two questionnaires were used to collect data for the survey. Companies with domestic R&D performance greater than or equal to $1 million in 2013 or 2014 were sent the standard survey form, BRDI-1. All other companies were sent an abbreviated form, BRDI-1(S) (table A-6 and table A-7). A small number of companies with a history of chronic delinquency were sent the abbreviated form instead of the standard questionnaire. Some companies requested multiple forms to facilitate subcompany reporting (table A-8).
Because of the potential compartmentalization of organizational knowledge within companies (particularly in larger companies), the BRDIS questionnaire was organized into sections based on the subject matter of the questions. These sections included the following:
Section 1. Company Information. Includes basic questions about company ownership, lines of business, sales data, and measures of innovation.
Section 2. Financial Schedule A. Includes accounting questions about the company’s R&D expenses and capital expenditures for R&D.
Section 3. Financial Schedule B. Includes accounting questions about R&D paid for by others, such as the company’s customers or grant-giving organizations.
Section 4. Management and Strategy of R&D. Includes questions related to the nature of the company’s R&D and how the R&D is being performed. This section was targeted toward company employees responsible for managing R&D departments or programs.
Section 5. Human Resources. Includes questions related to the human resources involved in the company’s R&D activities.
Section 6. Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer. Includes questions on the company’s production, use, acquisition, and disposition of intellectual property related to science and technology, with a focus on patents.
For specific differences among the BRDIS questionnaires, see section Data Comparability (Changes).
Unit Response Rates
Of the companies surveyed for the 2015 survey, 19.9% did not submit any response, and an additional 0.5% did not provide enough information to be treated as responses. Nonresponse studies are conducted periodically to assess reasons for nonresponse and possible nonresponse bias. Three metrics used by NSF and the U.S. Census Bureau to measure unit response to BRDIS were check-in rates, unit response rates, and coverage rates.
Check-in rate. The check-in rate is defined as the unweighted number of surveys that were either mailed in or submitted online by in-scope companies, divided by the unweighted total number of all in-scope companies in the sample. Response to individual questions did not factor into this metric.
Coverage rate. BRDIS managers track a coverage rate that is a weighted measure of survey response based on the measure of size at the time of sample selection. The coverage rate measures how much of the weighted measure of size for in-scope companies in the sample is accounted for by respondents to the survey.
Unit response rate (URR). The URR is the unweighted number of responding companies with positive data for at least one of the survey’s key items (i.e., worldwide R&D expense or R&D costs funded by others, worldwide or domestic sales, or worldwide or domestic employees), divided by the unweighted total number of in-scope companies in the sample.
For the 2015 BRDIS, the check-in rate was 80.1%, and the URR was 79.6%. The coverage rate for the 2015 BRDIS was 93.0% for the known positive R&D group, 84.3% for the unknown R&D group, and 83.4% for the known zero R&D group (table A-9 and table A-10).
Item Response Rates
BRDIS collects data for over 500 variables, and the distribution of values reported by sample companies is highly skewed. Thus, rather than report unweighted item response rates, total quantity response rates are calculated, which are based on weighted data.
Total quantity response rate (TQRR). For a given published estimate other than count or ratio estimates, TQRR is the percentage of the weighted estimate based on data that were reported by units in the sample or on data that were obtained from other sources and were determined to be equivalent in quality to reported data. The TQRR for total R&D performed in the United States in 2015 was 70%.
Total quantity nonresponse rate (TQNR). For a given published estimate, TQNR, defined as 100% minus TQRR, is calculated for each tabulation cell from BRDIS, except for cells that contain count or ratio estimates. TQNR measures the combined effect of the procedures used to handle unit and item nonresponse on the weighted BRDIS estimate. TQNR tables corresponding to each data table are available from the NCSES project officer.
Response by Mode
Overall, 9% of checked-in cases responded to BRDIS by mailing in the paper form, and 91% responded using the online version of the survey. However, companies receiving Form BRDI-1 were much more likely to respond online; 96% of all checked-in BRDI-1 forms were submitted online, as opposed to only 90% of all checked-in BRDI-1(S) forms. Lastly, 96% of checked in companies with account managers responded via the Internet.
Given the size and complexity of BRDIS, many survey responses included errors that required correction or unusual patterns that required validation. Several hundred automated edit checks were programmed to improve the efficiency of analyst data review and correction (table A-11).
Approximately two-thirds of these edit checks were designed to catch arithmetic errors and logically inconsistent responses (balance edits). The remaining edit checks were designed to flag outliers for further analyst review (analytical edits). Descriptions of the data edits and edit failure rates are in annual methodology reports available from the NCSES project officer.
During the editing and review process, several cases were identified where companies reported zero R&D or a relatively small amount of R&D, even though subject-matter experts expected large amounts of R&D to be reported. Some of these companies were contract research organizations or federal contractors that did not account for the costs they incurred while conducting customer-sponsored research as R&D; instead, they accounted for these as the cost of sales. The largest of these companies were contacted by analysts and asked to resubmit their surveys. In rare cases, if no response could be elicited from a company and public information was available related to costs for customer-sponsored R&D, those data were used to impute an R&D estimate for that company.
Techniques for Handling Unit and Item Nonresponse
For various reasons, many firms chose to return the survey questionnaire with one or more blank items. For some firms, internal accounting systems and procedures may not have allowed quantification of specific expenditures. Others may have refused to answer any questions as a matter of company policy. Weighted estimates produced from BRDIS include adjustments to account for companies that did not respond to the survey (unit nonresponse) and for companies that did respond but left some questions blank (item nonresponse).
Except for estimates of counts, patents, patent licensing agreements, product or process innovation, and intellectual property protection, unit nonresponse is handled by adjusting weighted reported data and imputed data as follows. Each company’s sampling weight is multiplied by a nonresponse adjustment factor. To calculate the adjustment factors, each company in the sample that is eligible for tabulation is assigned to one (and only one) adjustment cell. The adjustment cells are based on the three R&D groups, which are subdivided based on R&D size and certainty status, and on the industry sampling strata described in the section Stratification of the Sample Frame, which are updated using information on industry classification reported in BRDIS. For a given adjustment cell, the nonresponse adjustment factor is the ratio of the sum of the weighted measure of size for all companies in the cell to the sum of the weighted measure of size for all companies in the cell with reported or imputed data. The measure of size used to select the sample for the 2015 BRDIS (see section Sample Frame) was also used to adjust for unit nonresponse. For companies in the known positive R&D stratum, the measure of size was based on R&D in the United States. For companies in the unknown R&D stratum, the measure of size was based on total annual payroll in the United States. For companies in the known zero R&D stratum, an arbitrary value of 1 was assigned as the measure of size so that the records would be subjected to further examination.
For count estimates for the BRDIS checkbox items that involve intellectual property protection, both unit and item nonresponse are handled using a nonresponse weight adjustment that is different from the one described above. The adjustment cells for tabulating the item are based on the three R&D groups, industry sampling strata, and the presence or absence of R&D activity. For a given adjustment cell and item, the nonresponse adjustment factor is a ratio. The numerator of the ratio is the sum of two components: the sum of the weights for the companies in the cell that reported the item, inflated to account for unit nonresponse, and the sum of the weights for the companies in the cell that reported to BRDIS but not the item. The denominator of the ratio is the sum of the weights for the companies in the cell that reported the item.
No unit nonresponse adjustment is performed for estimates of counts, patents, patent licensing agreements, and product or process innovation.
Item nonresponse for a given company is handled by item imputation. For account manager companies, large companies, and special cases, analysts impute these data using direct substitution of available company data (i.e., data from the company’s website, annual Form 10-K report, or administrative sources) or ad hoc methods, which are approved by NSF’s and the U.S. Census Bureau’s subject-matter experts. For other cases, including cases where analysts were unable to provide a superior estimate, data are imputed by programmed item imputation procedures. Depending on the particular item being imputed for a company, these procedures are based on a combination of (1) direct substitution of available company data, (2) ratio imputation using the company’s survey data for both current and prior year, and (3) ratio imputation using survey data from both the company and other similar companies, which reported both the survey item being imputed for the company and the other survey item used in the ratio. Tables of imputation rates corresponding to each data table are available from the NCSES project officer.
The general methodology used to produce estimates from BRDIS involves sums of weighted data (reported or imputed) in which the weights are the product of the sampling weight and the nonresponse adjustment factor. However, there are some exceptions, which are described below.
Estimates published for BRDIS are computed as sums of weighted data for sample companies that reported to the survey or for sample companies for which data could be reliably imputed based on prior reports or other information. Two types of weights are used for estimates of R&D: sampling weights and nonresponse adjustment factors. The sampling weight for a given company is calculated as the reciprocal of the company’s probability of inclusion in the sample. Nonresponse adjustment factors are used to represent companies in the sample that did not provide sufficient response data to be directly tabulated and whose data could not be imputed. For information on the calculation of the nonresponse adjustment factors, see section Unit Nonresponse.
Each value that contributes to a given BRDIS estimate is multiplied by both its sampling weight and its nonresponse adjustment factor (if applicable), and these weighted values are then summed to create the estimate. No nonresponse adjustment factor is used for estimates of counts, patents, patent licensing agreements, and product or process innovation. For these estimates, each value that contributes to a given BRDIS estimate is weighted only by its sampling weight.
Post-sampling Industry Classification
As mentioned in the section Industry Classification for Sampling, the industry classification assigned to companies for sampling was based on either reported BRDIS business segment data from prior years or annual payroll. To produce more accurate estimates for the current survey year, a company’s reported business code data, if available for the current survey year, were used to assign an updated industry code for tabulations. The company’s response to the domestic R&D performance questions from the current survey year was used to classify each company into the business code that accounted for the largest amount of total domestic R&D performance. The business codes reported by companies with large amounts of R&D were validated, and in some cases corrected, by survey staff. If no business code data were available for a company’s domestic R&D performance, the industry code used for sampling was also used for tabulations.
R&D, by State
The estimation methodology for state estimates takes the form of a hybrid estimator, combining the unweighted reported amount, by state, with a weighted amount apportioned (or raked) across states with relevant industrial activity. The hybrid estimator smooths the estimate over states with R&D activity, by industry, and accounts for real observed change within a state. However, as described in the section Weighting, the weighted estimator described above is not used to produce estimates of counts, such as estimates of the number of R&D performers, by state.
As described in the section Weighting, estimates of innovation activity are sums of weighted data (reported or imputed), where the weights are based on only the sampling weight. For these estimates, the weighted data were not adjusted to account for nonresponse to the survey.
R&D, by Business Segment Code
To provide increased granularity on R&D activities, BRDIS includes questions asking companies to report data for business units below the company level. To support subcompany reporting, a list of business codes based on NAICS was provided in BRDIS for companies to use to categorize their business operations. The list of business codes for the 2015 cycle of BRDIS was based on the 2012 NAICS. To assist companies in selecting appropriate business codes, likely business codes were provided to respondents by printing them on the forms mailed to companies and by pre-populating them on the online version of the survey. For companies that reported to the 2013 or 2014 BRDIS, the most recent business codes reported by the company were used to provide the business codes. For companies that did not report to the 2013 or 2014 BRDIS, establishment payroll data from the Business Register were used to provide the business codes.
The company count estimates for 2014 and 2015 are not comparable with estimates published for previous years. Previously, all companies that met the response criteria and reported R&D were included in the company counts. For survey years 2014 and 2015, several hundred companies reporting less than $10,000 of R&D and no R&D employees were reviewed, and the R&D was edited to zero because the reported R&D was determined to most likely be response error. Because companies meeting these criteria contributed negligible amounts to BRDIS R&D estimates, they had not been similarly reviewed on a consistent basis in prior years. These companies tended to have high sample weights, so zeroing their R&D had a large impact on the estimate of R&D-active companies compared to prior years, when similar corrections were not made.
Survey Quality Measures
The estimates produced from BRDIS are subject to both sampling and nonsampling errors
Sampling and Nonsampling Errors
Potential nonsampling errors include coverage error and various response and operational errors, such as errors during data collection, reporting errors, transcription errors, and bias due to nonresponse. These are all types of errors that could also occur if a complete enumeration of the sample frame had been conducted under the same conditions as the sample survey. Most of the important operational errors were detected and corrected during the course of the reviewing data for reasonableness and consistency. Though nonsampling error is not measured directly, quality control procedures were employed throughout the survey process to minimize this type of error.
Sampling error is the difference between estimates obtained from the sample and results theoretically obtainable from a comparable complete enumeration of the sample frame. This error results because only a subset of the sample frame is measured in a sample survey. For published estimates from BRDIS, standard errors are produced for estimated percentages, while relative standard errors (RSEs) are produced for all other estimates. Tables of the estimated measures of sampling variability corresponding to each data table are available from the NCSES project officer.
Standard errors may be used to define confidence intervals about the corresponding estimates with a desired level of confidence. If a confidence interval were constructed for each possible sample that could be selected, then it would be expected that the percentage of confidence intervals containing the result of a complete enumeration of the sample frame would equal the percentage of the level of confidence. For example, the interval defined by a margin of error of two standard errors yields a confidence interval of approximately 95%.
Because relatively few companies perform R&D in the United States, and because the amount of R&D they perform is quite variable, it is difficult to achieve control over the sampling error of survey estimates produced from BRDIS. This depends on the correlation between the measure of size on the sample frame that was used to assign the selection probabilities and the actual data that are collected in BRDIS, which cannot be predicted accurately for all companies when the sample is designed. However, the largest companies known to perform R&D are included in the sample with certainty so that these companies will not contribute to the sampling error of the resulting estimates produced from BRDIS.
The sample size is sufficiently large that estimates based on the total sample are subject to low sampling error. However, because priority in designing the sample was given to industries that were identified in previous surveys as conducting large amounts of R&D expenditures, the sampling error may be larger for estimates for the lower-priority industries. The RSE for the estimate of total domestic R&D performed by the company was 0.50% in 2015.
Variations in respondent interpretations of the definitions of R&D activities and variations in accounting procedures are of particular concern—specifically, the characterization and reporting of R&D activities by large defense contractors funded by the U.S. federal government; the reporting of R&D activities by companies classified in the R&D services industry (NAICS 5417); and the method used by companies, in general, to count and report numbers of employees in various categories, such as the number of employees who work full time versus part time on R&D. The sophistication and comprehensiveness of a company’s accounting and personnel tracking systems often depend on its size and activities and on its willingness to accommodate government-sponsored surveys. While no metric of measurement error is produced, ongoing efforts to minimize measurement error include questionnaire pretesting, improvement of questionnaire wording and format, inclusion of more cues and examples in the questionnaire instructions, in-person and telephone interviews and consultations with respondents, and post-survey evaluations.
Data Comparability (Changes)
Differences between the 2014 and 2015 BRDIS Questionnaires
The following changes were made to the 2015 BRDIS from the 2014 BRDIS:
- A question on phase IV clinical trials was added to Form BRDI-1.
- A question on R&D performed by others that was paid for by U.S. federal government agencies or laboratories was added to Form BRDI-1.
- Questions on the type of foreign R&D paid for and performed by company were added to Form BRDI-1.
- Questions on the type of foreign R&D performed by company but paid for by others were added to Form BRDI-1.
- A question on nonprovisional utility patents was added to Form BRDI-1.
- Questions related to R&D in photonics and optics application areas were removed from Form BRDI-1.
Differences between the 2013 and 2014 BRDIS Questionnaires
The following changes were made to the 2014 BRDIS from the 2013 BRDIS:
- A question on monetary gifts to universities or colleges restricted to supporting R&D was added to Form BRDI-1.
- A question on revenue received from patent licensing was added to Form BRDI-1.
- A question on purchasing patents from others was added to Form BRDI-1.
- A question on licensing patents from others was added to Form BRDI-1.
- One business code was added to the list of business codes collected on the survey: 33333, Digital cameras manufacturing. In prior years, this line of business was included in the business code 33412, Computers and peripheral equipment manufacturing and magnetic and optical media.
- Questions related to patenting were removed from Form BRDI-1(S).
- Questions related to innovation were added to Form BRDI-1(S).
Differences between the 2012 and 2013 BRDIS Questionnaires
The following changes were made to the 2013 BRDIS from the 2012 BRDIS:
- The list of countries for which foreign R&D performance data were collected was expanded by three: Hungary, Luxembourg, and Norway.
- A question was restored asking the amount of R&D the company plans to recoup through indirect charges on U.S. federal government contracts (independent R&D). This question was last asked on the 2010 BRDIS.
- Questions on R&D for software products and R&D for embedded software were combined.
- A question on R&D for software products and embedded software paid for by the federal government was added.
- A question was restored related to the educational attainment of scientists and engineers. This question was last asked on the 2010 BRDIS.
- Two business codes were added to the list of business codes collected on the survey: 32542, Biotechnology-based pharmaceutical and biological products (except diagnostics), and 51801, Cloud computing applications and Internet-based software services.
- Delinquent companies in the known positive R&D stratum for the past two survey cycles were sent a BRD-1(S) form to see if they report at least the high-level numbers.
Differences between the 2011 and 2012 BRDIS Questionnaires
For 2012, a much shorter (8-page) version of the short form, BRD-1(S), was implemented. The form included 19 high-level detail items on worldwide sales; domestic sales; R&D expense funded both by company and by others; employment both worldwide and domestic, including R&D employment; and patents applied for and issued. Companies that reported $1 million or more of domestic R&D performance were then sent the long form (BRDI-1) for additional details. The BRD-1(S) form was sent to companies in the unknown and known zero R&D strata. In section 2, the questionnaire collected the additional detail categories for capital expenditures. In section 3, four agencies were added to the type of agency question so as to reduce the amount reported in the “All other” category. In section 4, the percentage of R&D that was directed toward business areas or product lines new to the respondent’s company and the percentages that pertain to defense applications, health or medical applications, or agricultural applications were added for R&D funded by the company and R&D funded by others.
Differences between the 2010 and 2011 BRDIS Questionnaires
For the 2011 data collection, the innovation questions and instructions in section 1 were changed based on the results of the 2010 experiment. Cycling continued for data items not needed every year. The survey was expanded in several ways to address data gaps: the list of countries in which companies could report foreign R&D performance was expanded, a question was added to collect intracompany R&D transactions, and questions were added about companies’ second-largest R&D location. In addition, questions pertaining to full-time equivalent (FTE) R&D scientists and engineers were revised in an attempt to improve respondent understanding of survey concepts.
Differences between the 2009 and 2010 BRDIS Questionnaires
For the 2010 data collection, the most notable changes made to the questionnaire were the inclusion of a one-time section (section 7) on R&D time frame and R&D product life, the inclusion of an experiment testing the impact of different innovation questions and instructions, and the addition of a survey supplement to collect detailed information from companies reporting R&D paid for by others. In addition, questions and instructions about company ownership were expanded to clarify, especially for foreign-owned companies, the information that should be reported on the survey. Cycling began for data items not needed every year from every company. These items will be returned to the questionnaire cyclically, depending on the demand for and quality of the collected data. Finally, data items poorly reported during the first two cycles of BRDIS were deleted.
The section titled R&D Time Frame and R&D Product Life was added to the questionnaire for the 2010 cycle to aid in estimating the depreciation of R&D when it is treated as an investment in the U.S. System of National Accounts.
The experiment testing the impact of different innovation questions and instructions used two versions of the BRDIS short form. The innovation questions on the 2010 Form BRDI-1A were identical to questions used on the 2009 Form BRDI-1A, and the 2010 Form BRDI-1B altered the questions and instructions to replicate innovation questions on the European Union’s Community Innovation Survey. The experiment did not produce statistically significant differences in measured rates of innovation.
Differences between the 2008 and 2009 BRDIS Questionnaires
Several changes were made to the 2009 BRDIS questionnaire—in part, to address reporting errors observed during the 2008 survey cycle. Briefly, these changes included the following:
- A screening question at the beginning of the form asking companies whether they had R&D activity during the reporting period was removed.
- Exclusion instructions in the main R&D expense question were replaced with a series of targeted questions. This approach was based on the premise that the economic concepts requested by BRDIS do not always conform to the R&D measures tracked by companies. Rather than directly ask for concepts that may diverge from respondent preconceptions about R&D, the approach in 2009 guided respondents to derive amounts that conformed to the BRDIS definition of R&D.
- Inclusion instructions in the main R&D paid for by others question were replaced with a series of targeted questions.
- Data for R&D performed by others were derived rather than collected directly. For the 2009 cycle of BRDIS, R&D performed by others was the sum of two R&D costs known to be tracked by companies: payments to business partners for collaborative R&D, and purchased R&D services.
- The order of the Management and Strategy of R&D and Financial Schedule B (R&D paid for by others) sections was switched.
Capital expenditure. Capital expenditures are payments by a business for assets that usually have a useful life of more than 1 year, like buildings, equipment, or software. The value of assets acquired or improved through capital expenditures is recorded on a company’s balance sheet. Expenditures for long-lived assets used in a company’s R&D operations are not included in its R&D expense, but any depreciation recorded for those assets would be included in its R&D expense. Data are collected in BRDIS for capital expenditures for R&D operations for structures, equipment, capitalized software, and other items.
Employment, total and R&D. Involves the number of people employed by R&D-performing or R&D-funding companies in all locations, both foreign and domestic, during the pay period that included 12 March of the survey year. (The date 12 March is what most employers use when paying first-quarter employment taxes to IRS.) R&D employees are those who provide direct support to R&D, such as researchers, R&D managers, technicians, clerical staff, and others assigned to R&D groups. Those not included are employees who provide indirect support to R&D, such as corporate personnel, security guards, and cafeteria workers. In addition to head counts of total and R&D employees, estimates of FTE domestic R&D employment are produced from BRDIS. This is the number of persons employed who were assigned full time to R&D, plus a prorated number of employees who worked on R&D only part of the time.
Expense and R&D expense. Involves money spent or costs incurred in an organization’s efforts to generate revenue, representing the cost of doing business. Expenses may be in the form of actual cash payments (such as wages and salaries), a computed expired portion (depreciation) of an asset, or an amount taken out of earnings (such as bad debts). Expenses are summarized and charged in the income statement as deductions from the income before assessing income tax. Whereas all expenses are costs, not all costs are expenses (e.g., costs incurred in acquisition of income generating assets—see the definition of Capital expenditure above). R&D expense is the cost of R&D funded by the company itself and performed within the respondent company’s facilities, both foreign and domestic, or performed by others outside of the company under contract, subcontract, grant, or other funding arrangement.
Innovation. BRDIS questions on innovation activities refer only to product and process innovation. A product innovation is the market introduction of a new or significantly improved good or service with respect to its capabilities, user friendliness, components, or subsystems. A process innovation is the implementation of a new or significantly improved production process, distribution method, or support activity for the company’s goods or services. Product and process innovations (new or improved) must be new to the respondent company, but they do not need to be new to the company’s market, and the innovations could have been originally developed by the respondent company or by other companies. Purely organizational innovations (i.e., those of benefit only to the company) are excluded.
R&D and business R&D. R&D is planned, creative work aimed at discovering new knowledge or developing new or significantly improved goods and services. This includes (1) activities aimed at acquiring new knowledge or understanding without specific immediate commercial applications or uses (basic research), (2) activities aimed at solving a specific problem or meeting a specific commercial objective (applied research), and (3) systematic use of research and practical experience to produce new or significantly improved goods, services, or processes (development). R&D includes both direct costs, such as salaries of researchers, and administrative and overhead costs clearly associated with the company’s R&D. However, R&D does not include expenditures for routine product testing, quality control, and technical services unless they are an integral part of an R&D project. R&D also does not include market research; efficiency surveys or management studies; literary, artistic, or historical projects, such as films, music, or books and other publications; and prospecting or exploration for natural resources.
R&D, biotechnology. The application of science and technology to living organisms, as well as parts, products, and models thereof, to alter living or nonliving materials for the production of knowledge, goods, and services. The following list provides examples of areas of biotechnology in which R&D may be performed.
- DNA or RNA: genomics; pharmacogenomics; gene probes; genetic engineering; DNA or RNA sequencing, synthesis, or amplification; gene expression profiling; and use of antisense technology, large-scale DNA synthesis, genome- and gene-editing, and gene drive
- Proteins and other molecules: sequencing, synthesis, or engineering of proteins and peptides (including large molecule hormones); improved delivery methods for large molecule drugs; proteomics; protein isolation and purification; signaling; and identification of cell receptors
- Cell and tissue culture and engineering: cell or tissue culture, tissue engineering (including tissue scaffolds and biomedical engineering), cellular fusion, vaccine or immune stimulants, embryo manipulation, marker-assisted breeding technologies, and metabolic engineering
- Process biotechnology techniques: fermentation using bioreactors, biorefining, bioprocessing, bioleaching, biopulping, biobleaching, biodesulfurization, bioremediation, biosensing, biofiltration and phytoremediation, and molecular aquaculture
- Gene and RNA vectors: gene therapy and viral vectors
- Bioinformatics: construction of databases on genomes, protein sequences, and modeling complex biological processes, including systems biology
- Nanobiotechnology: applies the tools and processes of nano- or microfabrication to build devices for studying biosystems and applications in, for example, drug delivery or diagnostics
R&D, nanotechnology. The understanding of processes and phenomena and the application of S&T to organisms and to organic and inorganic materials—as well as parts, products and models thereof—at the nanometer scale (but not exclusively below 100 nanometers) in one or more dimensions, where the onset of size-dependent phenomena usually enables novel applications. These applications utilize the properties of nanoscale material that differ from the properties of individual atoms, molecules, and bulk matter for the production of knowledge, goods, and services, like improved materials, devices, and systems that exploit these new properties. The following list provides examples of areas of nanotechnology in which R&D may be performed.
- Nanomaterial: material with any external dimension in the nanoscale or having internal structure or surface structure in the nanoscale
- Nanoelectronics: field of S&T concerned with the development and production of functional electronic devices with nanoscale components
- Nanophotonics: branch of photonics concerned with interaction of photons with nanomaterials aiming to design optical or optoelectronic components
- Nanomedicine: medical application of nanotechnology (e.g., medical application of nanomaterials and biological devices, to nanoelectronics biosensors, and even possible future applications of molecular nanotechnology such as biological machines)
- Nanomagnetics: the study of the magnetic response of nanomaterials to an applied magnetic field and their applications
- Nanomechanics: a branch of nanoscience studying fundamental mechanical (elastic, thermal, and kinetic) properties of physical systems at the nanometer scale
- Nanofiltration: a membrane filtration process used for the softening of water and the removal of organic matter, includes nanomembranes
- Nanotools: multicomponent tools and devices used for manipulation, nanolithography, and nanofabrication
- Nanoinstruments or nanodevices: multicomponent instruments or devices used for observation, analysis, or control of matter at the nanometer scale
- Nanomanufacturing: intentional synthesis generation of control of nanomaterials, or fabrication steps in the nanoscale, for commercial purposes
R&D paid for by others, worldwide and domestic. The cost of R&D funded by others outside of the company, including the U.S. federal government, and performed within the respondent company’s facilities, both foreign and domestic.
R&D paid for by the company and others, worldwide and domestic. Involves the cost of R&D funded by the company itself or by others outside of the company and performed within the respondent company’s facilities, both foreign and domestic, or performed by others outside of the company under contract, subcontract, grant, or other funding arrangement.
R&D performed by the company, worldwide and domestic. The cost of R&D performed within the respondent company’s facilities, both foreign and domestic, funded by the company itself or by others outside of the company.
R&D performed by the company and others, worldwide and domestic. The cost of R&D performed within the respondent company’s facilities, both foreign and domestic, or performed by others outside of the company under contract, subcontract, grant, or other funding arrangement.
R&D performed by others, worldwide and domestic. Involves the cost of R&D funded by the company itself or by others outside of the company and performed by others outside of the company under contract, subcontract, grant, or other funding arrangement.
R&D, software and Internet. R&D activity in software and Internet applications refers only to activities that have an element of uncertainty and that are intended to close knowledge gaps and meet scientific and technological needs. This item is reported in this survey regardless of the eventual user (internal or external). R&D activity in software includes software development or improvement activities that expand scientific or technological knowledge and construction of new theories and algorithms in the field of computer science. R&D activity in software excludes software development that does not depend on a scientific or technological advance, such as supporting or adapting existing systems, adding functionality to existing application programs, routine debugging of existing systems and software, creating new software based on known methods and applications, converting or translating existing software and software languages, and adapting a product to a specific client, unless knowledge that significantly improved the base program was added in that process.
Sales, worldwide and domestic. Dollar values for goods sold or services rendered by R&D-performing or R&D-funding companies located in the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia to customers outside the company, including the U.S. federal government, foreign customers, and the company’s foreign subsidiaries. Included are revenues from a company’s foreign operations and subsidiaries and from discontinued operations. If a respondent company is owned by a foreign parent company, sales to the parent company and to affiliates not owned by the respondent companies are included. Excluded are intracompany transfers, returns, allowances, freight charges, and excise, sales, and other revenue-based taxes.
The data from BRDIS can be found online at https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/industry/. Detailed historical statistics from the predecessor survey, SIRD, can be obtained from NSF’s Industrial Research and Development Information System at https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/iris/. Information from BRDIS is also included in Science and Engineering Indicators and in National Patterns of R&D Resources.
BRDIS contains confidential data that are protected under Title 13 and Title 26 of the United States Code. Two types of data are currently available: public-use tabular statistics and restricted microdata. Detailed tabular statistics can be obtained by contacting the BRDIS project officer. Microdata for the SIRD and BRDIS can only be accessed at the U.S. Census Bureau’s secure Research Data Centers (RDCs). To learn more about RDCs and for instructions on how to apply for data use, please visit the Center for Economic Studies for research opportunities.
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Suggested Citation and Acknowledgments
The U.S. Census Bureau, under National Science Foundation interagency agreement number NCSES-0219101, collected and tabulated the data and produced the statistics for this report. This work was performed by Aronda Stovall, Vicki Mills, Yvette Moore, Jeffrey Kellner, Steven Wilkinson, Susan Shrieves, Ebenezer Amoako, David Garrow, Deena Grover, Lucia Chavez, Melvin Dangan, Robert Ford, and Neil Hillis, under the direction of Michael Flaherty. Under the same interagency agreement, mathematical statistician support was provided by Ana Rodriguez, John Slanta, Lucas Streng, and Abigail Legge, under the direction of Colt Viehdorfer, and business accounting and subject-matter support was provided by Brandon Shackelford. RTI International edited the tables under contract number NSFDACS17T1045. RTI staff members Roxanne Snaauw and Catherine Boykin prepared the tables for composition; August Gering performed quality control and coordinated the work.
This report was developed and coordinated by Raymond M. Wolfe in NCSES’s Research and Development Statistics Program under the direction of John E. Jankowski. Emilda B. Rivers, division director, reviewed and provided overall guidance. Statistical review of the draft manuscript was performed by Jock Black, mathematical statistician, and Samson Adeshiyan, chief statistician. Publication processing support was provided by Catherine Corlies and Rajinder Raut in NCSES’s Information and Technology Services Program under the direction of May Aydin.
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