AsianScientist (Sep. 21, 2016) – China is achieving an astonishing average annual growth rate of 18.3 percent in R&D spending, according to a new data tool showing the leaders and emerging players in research and development (R&D) released by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS).
“Innovation is key to achieving each of the Sustainable Development Goals. So it is essential to track R&D investment in the knowledge, technology and thinking that drives innovation in countries,” said Dr Silvia Montoya, director of UIS.
The new data tool, entitled ‘How much does your country invest in R&D?’ shows that the top five R&D performers in absolute terms (R&D expenditure) are all large economies: the United States, followed by China, Japan, Germany and Republic of Korea.
But the ranking changes dramatically according to R&D expenditure as a percentage of GDP: Republic of Korea is the world leader followed by Israel, Japan, Finland and Sweden.
Regions have been setting their own spending targets for some time: the best-known being the European Union (EU) target to raise overall R&D investment to three percent of GDP by 2020. According to UIS data, only six countries worldwide have managed to surpass the three percent target, and three are smaller EU economies: Denmark, Finland and Sweden.
These, in turn, lag behind Japan with 3.6 percent and Israel with an impressive 4.1 percent. And all of them trail behind South Korea—the world leader—with 4.3 percent. Austria, Germany and Switzerland hover around 3 percent as does the biggest spender of all: the United States.
Few countries in other regions compete with these proportions. In Central and Eastern Europe, Slovenia leads with 2.4 percent compared to the Russian Federation at 1.2 percent. In Central Asia, the figure hovers around 0.2 percent, as in the case for Kazakhstan. Morocco tops the league in the Arab States with just 0.7 percent. Brazil is the leader in Latin America, with 1.2 percent, while India leads in South and West Asia with 0.8 percent. In Africa, the African Union is aiming for 1 percent, but only Kenya, Mali and South Africa approach the target.
China is achieving an astonishing average annual growth rate of 18.3 percent in R&D spending, compared to just 1.4 percent across the rest of the world’s upper-middle-income countries, according to UIS data. China’s R&D spending only amounts to 2 percent of its GDP, but this means that the country is pouring about PPP$369 billion into this sector each year.
As the share of global R&D expenditure by high-income countries fell from 88 percent in 1996 to 69.3 percent by 2013, China alone filled that gap, increasing its share from 2.5 percent to 19.6 percent. This means that China is increasingly approaching the United States, which accounts for almost 30 percent of global R&D expenditure.
Globally, there were almost 1,083 researchers for every one million people in 2013. However, the share of researchers in middle-income countries, excluding China, fell from 17 percent to 15 percent between 1996 and 2013–a worrying downward trend with global implications for sustainable development.
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