According to the National Science Foundation’s Science and EngineeringIndicators 2018 report released today, the United States is the global leader in science and technology (S&T). However, the U.S. global share of S&T activities is declining as other nations — especially China — continue to rise.
The National Science Board (NSB) is the governing body of the National Science Foundation and publishes the congressionally mandated report on the state of science and engineering (S&E) every two years. The 2018 report shows the U.S. invests the most in research and development (R&D), attracts the most venture capital, awards the most advanced degrees, provides the most business, financial, and information services, and is the largest producer in high-technology manufacturing sectors.
R&D expenditures reflect a nation’s commitment to expanding capabilities in S&T, which in turn drive innovation. While the U.S. led the world in R&D expenditures at $496 billion (26% share of the global total), China was a decisive second at 21% ($408 billion). China has grown its R&D spending rapidly since 2000, at an average of 18% annually. Its focus is geared primarily toward development rather than basic or applied research. During the same time frame, U.S. R&D spending grew by only 4%. Although emerging economies start at a lower base and therefore tend to grow much more rapidly, China’s growth rate is exceptional.
Venture capital investment, which supports the commercialization of emerging technologies, totaled more than $130 billion globally in 2016. While the U.S. attracted the most investment (nearly $70 billion), accounting for slightly more than half of the global share, 26% of total venture capital funds went to China. Venture capital in China rose from approximately $3 billion in 2013 to $34 billion in 2016, climbing from 5% to 27% of the global share, the fastest increase of any economy.
Knowledge and technology-intensive industries—in which S&T advances are key inputs—are a major part of the global economy, comprising nearly one-third of world gross domestic product (GDP). America leads in providing business, financial, and information services, accounting for 31% of the global share, followed by the European Union (EU) at 21%. China is the third largest producer of these services (17% global share) and continues to grow at a far faster rate (19% annual growth) than the U.S. and other developed countries. The U.S. is the largest producer of high technology manufacturing (31% global share). This includes production of air and spacecraft, semiconductors, computers, pharmaceuticals, and measuring and control instruments. China is second at 24%, more than doubling its share over the last decade.
Higher education provides the advanced work skills needed in an increasingly knowledge-intensive global economy. According to the most recent estimates, the U.S. awarded the largest number of S&E doctoral degrees (40,000) of any country, followed by China (34,000), Russia (19,000), Germany (15,000), the United Kingdom (14,000), and India (13,000). In contrast, the U.S. lags in bachelor’s level degrees. India earned 25% of the more than 7.5 million awarded S&E bachelor’s level degrees in 2014, followed closely by China (22%), the EU (12%), and the U.S. (10%). Nearly half of all degrees awarded in China are in S&E fields. Since 2000, the number of S&E bachelor’s degrees awarded in China has gone up by 300%.
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