R&D Spending at Federally Funded R&D Centers Increased by Largest Amount Since 2010

NSF 21-306

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November 19, 2020

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The nation’s 42 federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs) spent nearly $23 billion on research and development in FY 2019, an annual increase of 7.4% in current dollars (table 1). The federal government’s share of support reached $22.3 billion in FY 2019 and represented a 7.6% increase in federal R&D support to FFRDCs—the sixth consecutive year of nominal growth after performance declines in FYs 2011–13. In constant dollars, total FFRDC R&D expenditures rose an average of 3.4% from 2014 to 2019, including a 5.5% increase from FY 2018 to FY 2019 (figure 1). These increases are the largest since FY 2009 to FY 2010, when FFRDCs expended an additional $1 billion on R&D funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. These and the other statistics in this report come from the FY 2019 FFRDC Research and Development Survey, conducted by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) within the National Science Foundation (NSF).

R&D expenditures at federally funded research and development centers, by source of funds: FYs 2010–19

(Thousands of current dollars)
Source(s):

National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, FFRDC Research and Development Survey.

Total R&D expenditures at federally funded research and development centers: FYs 2008–19

(Millions of dollars)
Fiscal year Constant (2012) dollars Current dollars
2008 16,563 15,616
2009 17,253 16,390
2010 19,645 18,881
2011 19,029 18,671
2012 18,281 18,281
2013 17,361 17,667
2014 17,097 17,719
2015 17,643 18,458
2016 18,180 19,220
2017 18,604 20,038
2018 19,195 21,172
2019 20,255 22,738
Source(s):

National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, FFRDC Research and Development Survey.

R&D by Funding Source

FFRDCs are privately operated R&D organizations that are exclusively or substantially financed by the federal government. Over 98% ($22.3 billion) of FFRDC R&D expenditures were funded by the federal government in FY 2019 (table 1). Nonfederal sources funded the remaining R&D, totaling about $398.6 million, including businesses ($180.6 million), nonprofit organizations ($48.2 million), state and local governments ($51.2 million), and all other sources ($118.7 million), such as funds from foreign governments and foreign or U.S. universities.

Federal Agency Sources of R&D Funding

Over 91% of the federally funded R&D expenditures at FFRDCs came from four agencies (table 2). The Department of Energy ($11.4 billion) accounted for 51.1% of federally funded R&D spending. The Department of Defense ($5.0 billion, 22.6%), National Aeronautics and Space Administration ($2.9 billion, 12.9%), and the Department of Health and Human Services ($1.0 billion, 4.7%), which includes the National Institutes of Health, were the only other agencies funding greater than $1 billion. Almost $2 billion of federally funded R&D came from agencies other than the largest four. FFRDCs identified 28 agencies as sources of federal funding.

Federally financed R&D expenditures at federally funded research and development centers, by federal agency: FY 2019

(Thousands of current dollars)

FFRDC = federally funded research and development center.

Source(s):

National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, FFRDC Research and Development Survey, FY 2019.

Expenditures, by Type of R&D

In FY 2019, basic research activities accounted for nearly 20% of total FFRDC R&D expenditures, more than 2 percentage points lower than in FY 2015 (table 4). The remaining R&D expenditures were divided fairly evenly between applied research and experimental development (at about 40 percent each). Overall, total basic research expenditures at FFRDCs increased by $442 million in current dollars from FY 2015 to FY 2019. Applied research expenditures and experimental development each increased by $1.9 billion during the same period.

Total and federally financed R&D expenditures at federally funded research and development centers, by type of R&D: FYs 2015–19

(Millions of current dollars)
Note(s):

Detail may not add to total because of rounding.

Source(s):

National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, FFRDC Research and Development Survey.

Data Sources, Limitations, and Availability

The statistics on FFRDC R&D expenditures presented in this report come from the FY 2019 FFRDC Research and Development Survey. This annual survey is completed by FFRDC administrators and collects data from FFRDCs on R&D expenditures by source of funds (federal government, state and local governments, businesses, nonprofit organizations, or other), type of R&D (basic research, applied research, or experimental development), and type of cost (salaries, software, equipment, subcontracts, or indirect costs). This survey has been a census of the full population of FFRDCs since FY 2001. For a list of criteria used to define the set of FFRDCs, see the general guidelines of the Master Government List of FFRDCs at https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/ffrdclist/#guide&gennotes.

The full set of data tables from this survey and more information on the survey methodology are available at https://ncses.nsf.gov/pubs/nsf21307/.

Note

1Britt R; National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES). 2012. ARRA Funding Raises R&D Expenditures within Federally Funded R&D Centers 11% to 16.8 Billion in FY 2010. NSF 12-315. Alexandria, VA: National Science Foundation. Available at https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/infbrief/nsf12315/. Yearly totals have been updated since this report was published. See the FY 2019 data tables for the most current estimates.

Suggested Citation

Gibbons MT; National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES). 2020. R&D Spending at Federally Funded R&D Centers Increased by Largest Amount Since 2010. NSF 21-306. Alexandria, VA: National Science Foundation. Available at https://ncses.nsf.gov/pubs/nsf21306/.

Contact Us

Report Author

Michael T. Gibbons
Survey Manager
Research and Development Statistics Program, NCSES
Tel: 703-292-4590
E-mail: mgibbons@nsf.gov

NCSES

National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics
Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences
National Science Foundation
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