The global R&D outlook for 2011 is increasingly stable and positive, according to analysis performed by Battelle Memorial Institute and R&D Magazine. Having endured one of the worst recessionary periods in recent memory, R&D managers are adapting to expectations of moderate sustainable growth while competing on a global scale for market share and resources. Reflecting recent trends, prospects for R&D funding vary by region, with the United States (U.S.) expecting R&D growth to track GDP growth, Europe contemplating fiscal austerity that may restrict investment for several years, and most Asian countries maintaining strong financial commitments to R&D.
Total global spending on R&D is anticipated to increase 3.6%, to almost $1.2 trillion. With Asia’s stake continuing to increase, the geographic distribution of this investment will continue a shift begun more than five years ago. The U.S., however, still dominates absolute spending at a level well above its share of global GDP.
During the recession, the Asian R&D communities generally, and China specifically, increased their R&D investment and stature. As a Reuters headline noted, “While the world slashed R&D in a crisis, China innovated”. China entered the recession with a decade of strong economic growth. During that time, it increased R&D spending roughly 10% each year—a pace the country maintained during the 2008-2009 recession. This sustained commitment set China apart from many other nations.
In the U.S., a recession-related drop in industrial R&D spending in 2009 is expected to be recovered by increases in 2010 and 2011 at levels exceeding the rate of inflation.
Among the global research communities, the state of R&D in the European Union (EU) is the most concerning. Challenged by weak economies in Greece, Spain, and Ireland, Europe is struggling to recover from the recession and to cut deficits, which in turn affects government support of R&D.