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Business’s Share Of Academic R&D

Funding: Surveys show four decades of stable corporate support for academic R&D

by Susan R. Morrissey
September 27, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 39

Companies provided nearly 5% of the $65 billion spent on R&D activities by academia in academic fiscal 2011, according to data released by the National Science Foundation. This share of funding for academic R&D has been stable since the late 1970s.

Of the 912 academic institutions covered by the Higher Education Research & Development Survey, two-thirds reported receiving some R&D money from the business sector. Nearly 40% said this support exceeded $1 million. Businesses made little distinction between public and private institutions: The share of business-funded academic R&D at public institutions was 4.7%, and at private ones it was 5.2%.

Nearly 57,000 companies were estimated to have R&D activity in 2010, but only 18% of them funded academic efforts, according to another study, NSF’s 2010 Business R&D & Innovation Survey. The money directed by this group to academia represents less than 1% of their total company R&D spending, the survey finds. Further, for companies with long-term R&D spending of at least $7 million annually, 29% said they made payments or initiated new R&D collaborations with academia in 2010.

Bar chart shows percentage of companies in industry that fund academic R&D, whereas the pie chart shows which academic fields get the most funding.
Biotech companies top the list of backers of academic R&D, with a majority of industry money going toward medical sciences and engineering. NOTE: Industry percentages for academic fiscal 2011 represent the period July 1, 2010, to June 30, 2011. Bar chart data are representative of an estimated 57,000 R&D-active companies. SOURCE: NSF’s Higher Education Research & Development Survey


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