New Survey on Innovation from National Science Foundation


Companies located in the United States reported worldwide sales of $11 trillion in calendar year 2008 and spent $330 billion on research and development (R&D). Nearly $234 billion of the R&D expense was for R&D conducted in company facilities located in the United States. This is according to new figures from the National Science Foundation’s first ever Business R&D and Innovation Survey (BRDIS) developed jointly with the U.S. Census Bureau.

The new survey results from a 2004 recommendation to redesign NSF’s previous industry R&D audit instrument called the Survey of Industrial Research and Development. The National Academies’ Committee on National Statistics made the recommendation to cope with dramatic, fast-moving changes in the way R&D has been conducted during the last 50 years.

Conducted as a full-scale pilot, the BRDIS replaces the previous survey, which had been carried out every year since 1953. “Our world has changed a lot since 1953 and so has the way R&D is conducted,” said Arden Bement, director of the National Science Foundation. “This new survey addresses those changes.”

According to initial BRDIS survey results, companies with R&D activity reported that 68 percent of their worldwide sales came from domestic business operations. The pharmaceuticals and medicines industry reported that 67 percent of their worldwide sales came from domestic operations.

Other industries reported similarly high domestic-to-worldwide sales ratios. Data from scientific R&D services industries revealed that 85 percent of their sales came from domestic operations; computer system design and related services reported 79 percent; aerospace products and parts reported 74 percent; motor vehicles, trailers, and parts reported 62 percent; software publishers reported 58 percent and semiconductor and electronic components reported 53 percent.

In other statistics on sales, BRDIS survey results found that worldwide R&D expense and worldwide R&D costs funded by companies with 5-499 employees accounted for $1 trillion of the total worldwide sales. These companies had worldwide R&D expenses of $64 billion, or 19 percent, of the total expenses for R&D worldwide. Small businesses also performed $63 billion worth of business R&D in the United States and $5 billion abroad. They paid others $11 billion to perform R&D.

The data was taken from a representative sample of about 40,000 U.S.-owned businesses and U.S. affiliates of majority-owning companies located outside the United States that are carrying out research and development activities. Surveys were mailed to companies in January 2009.

Data from the survey can be found on NSF’s website. These data are preliminary; final statistics from the pilot will be available in early 2011. Two additional reports scheduled for release in 2010 will present preliminary 2008 statistics on worldwide and domestic employment, including R&D employment and innovation, respectively.

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