Science and R&D

In an economy powered by innovation and technology, more proactive R&D policies are key to success.

U.S. industry-funded life sciences R&D investment totaled $90.6 billion in 2013, accounting for 46 percent of the global total.

The U.S. remains the engine of the global life sciences economy. The industry's tremendous investment in R&D has been indispensable in the development of scores of breakthrough pharmaceutical drugs and therapies-from personalized gene therapies to synthetic skin to cures for certain types of cancer, which have profoundly improved quality of life for citizens worldwide. But as ITIF writes in Leadership in Decline: Assessing U.S. Competitiveness in Biomedical Research, the relative decline in U.S. Read more »

While industry R&D for product development increased by 54.1 percent between 1997 and 2011, progress in basic and applied research by industries was stagnant.

Industry funded R&D reached an all-time high in 2008, hitting $268 billion in total research, before cooling slightly in the wake of the recession. In particular, increases in development are responsible for the rapid growth. More companies are using more resources to design innovative new products to bring to market, which is a boon for the economy.  

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University Research Funding: Still Lagging Behind and Showing No Signs of Improvement

May 7, 2014 - 11:00am - 12:00pm
325 Russell Senate Office Building
2 Constitution Ave NE
Washington
DC
20510

It will come as a surprise to many that America is no longer, and nowhere near, the lead nation in terms of funding university research. In fact, as ITIF has reported, of 39 nations, the U.S. ranks just 24th in government funding of university R&D and 27th in business funding as a share of GDP. Read more »

R&D Tax Credit Legislation Will Boost Innovation and Jobs

University Research Funding: Still Lagging and Showing No Signs of Improvement

Driving Innovation Through Federal Investments

April 29, 2014
| Testimony and Filings

In testimony to the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, ITIF argued that while most attention has been focused on America's budget deficit, in fact America faces three deficits and debts: budget, trade and investment. For each we are increasing our indebtedness every year, the costs of which will be borne by future generations of Americans. In response, policymakers should take an approach to the budget that seeks to simultaneously close all three deficits. This means that Congress should increase, not cut, growth enhancing investments, including R&D, infrastructure, and education and training. These investments will drive long-term growth and innovation. At the same time, Congress should reduce the budget deficit by cutting non-productive spending (especially entitlements) and increasing taxes on individuals.

Between FY 2010 and the FY 2013 sequestration, federal R&D expenditures declined by 16.3 percent; this is the fastest decline over any three-year period since the end of the space race.

Federal investment in basic and applied scientific research is a key driver of long-term U.S. economic growth (and a fundamental contributor to the discovery of new technologies and medicines that significantly improve health care and quality of life). In fact, research shows that a 1 percent increase in R&D capital stock increases GDP by .13 percent. Other countries get this, which is why they have significantly increased their investments in government-funded R&D in recent years. Read more »

Both Guns and Butter? New Paper Shows Growth Benefits from Military Procurement

April 28, 2014
| Blogs & Op-eds

Government plays an important role in R&D investment through spending on the military, but some have questioned whether this spending has real benefits for innovation. A new paper shows that military spending, specially defense procurement from U.S. businesses, stimulates more R&D and more patents than sales to civilians. The military buildup in the 1980s spurred innovation and defense cuts in the 1990s slowed it down. Unfortunately, recent budget cuts are likely to hurt innovation even more.

Why The Tax Reform Act of 2014 Should Expand, Not Cut, The R&D Tax Credit

April 14, 2014
| Reports

R&D is a key driver of U.S. productivity growth, innovation and competitiveness. However, relative to societally optimal rates companies underinvest in R&D, which is why since 1954 companies have been able to deduct R&D costs immediately rather than depreciating them, and why since 1981 companies have been able to take a tax credit for R&D expenditures. Unfortunately, the Tax Reform Act of 2014 proposed by House Ways and Means Chairman David Camp (R-MI) would not only significantly reduce tax incentives to invest in R&D but would disqualify R&D expenditures toward software development from the credit.

These changes, if enacted, would reduce the tax incentives for performing R&D in the U.S. by approximately $20 billion per year, raising the effective tax rate of R&D-performing companies. It would also reduce R&D performed in the United States by at least $25 billion annually, which would in turn reduce productivity growth by an estimated 0.18 percent per year going forward. Finally, eliminating the credit for R&D on software, an activity that many industries not just software engage in, would change the allocation of R&D across types of research, negatively impacting innovation. 

The United States cannot afford to be indifferent to where R&D is performed. Given the fact that 26 nations already provide more generous tax treatment of research, these changes will lead to relatively less global R&D being performed domestically, with the negative effects on the economy and jobs to follow. To be sure, America needs sensible reforms that lower corporate tax rates, but these steps should be taken while maintaining, or even expanding, proven incentives to invest such as the R&D tax credit.

Understanding U.S. S&T Competitiveness: Rethinking NSF's S&E Indicators Report

April 7, 2014
| Reports

For 42 years the U.S. National Science Foundation has been producing its biennial "Science and Engineering Indicators" report, and since 1998 it has included a chapter “Industry, Technology and the Global Marketplace.” The NSF report is seen by many as an unbiased source for where the United States stands in technology-based competitiveness. The media reports the findings and many in the economic and technology policy communities look to the report to assess how United States global technology-based competitiveness. So when the report concludes that, “The strong competitive position of the U.S. economy overall is tied to continued U.S. global leadership in many KTI [knowledge- and technology-intensive] industries,” and “The US has the highest KTI share of GDP of any large economy,” it is not unreasonable for official Washington to take this as a good housekeeping seal of approval that all is well and to view any calls of alarm regarding the state of U.S. tech-based competitiveness as the “boy crying wolf.” 

But while the NSF report contains valuable information, its analysis of U.S. technology-based economic competitiveness is seriously flawed and misleading. There are a number of problems. First, the report relies on an overbroad definition of KTI industries, most of which are neither in global competition or technology-based. For example, the fact that the health care and financial services industries have grown much faster in the United States than in our competitor nations is seen by NSF as evidence of U.S. economic competitiveness, when in fact it is just the opposite. Second, the report conflates the absolute size of sectors with U.S. national competitiveness. Third, the report measures output using dollar denominated exchange rates which makes accurate international comparisons difficult. And fourth, the report fails to provide sufficient transparency for much of its key data, preventing outside analysts from knowing exactly what is included and excluded in the NSF analysis.When these first three limitations are controlled for the result is actually quite different than the official NSF findings. In fact, U.S. science and technology-based (S&T) competitiveness has declined significantly as other nations have put in place policies to make gains while the United States has not.

If the NSF is going to provide accurate and useful analysis of science and technology data related to U.S. competitiveness, it would be well served to significantly restructure the makeup and structure of the analysis in this key chapter to focus solely on science and technology-based, globally traded sectors. Doing so will provide policy makers with a more accurate assessment of the true competitive position of the U.S. S&T-based economy