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United States: Universities R&D spending reaches peak

Released in the end of November, a report by the National Science Foundation presents data on university spending in research and development (R&D), collected through a survey involving 912 universities and colleges in the United States.

In the fiscal year (FY) 2011, universities reported the highest ever spending in R&D. In addition, expenditures in university R&D increased in all subject fields from FY 2010 to FY 2011. Spending in R&D reached USD 65.1 billion in 2011, compared to USD 61.2 billion in 2010, an increase of 4.3% after adjusting for inflation. Part of this growth, however, was due to the increase in the survey sample, from 742 universities in 2010 to 912 universities in 2011.

Regarding the sources of funding for higher education R&D, the largest share came from the federal government, which contributed with USD 40.8 billion, representing 62.6% of the total USD 65.1 billion. Academic institutions and non-profit organisations occupied the second and third position in university R&D spending with USD 12.4 billion and USD 3.8 billion, respectively. They have also increased expenditure in 2011 relative to 2010.

Life sciences dominated the subject fields of R&D spending, having grown 6.6% in 2011, to USD 37.2 billion. Within the field of life sciences, the largest part of the funding was allocated to medical sciences – USD 20.4 billion. Engineering ranked second in spending, having increased 7.7% in 2011 to USD 10 billion. Spending in non-science and engineering fields (non-S&E) increased 10.5% in 2011 to USD 3.2 billion, while social sciences increased spending by 2.7% to USD 2 billion. Out of the total 912 higher education institutions surveyed, the top 30 in terms of expenditure in R&D accounted for 40.1% of the total spending. Medical schools alone received 35.5% (USD 23.1 billion) of the total spending of USD 65.1 billion.

National Science Foundation