NRI Pulse


US global share in science and technology eroding fast

Washington, Feb 7 (IANS) The US, Japan and Europe no longer monopolize the global science and technology research arena any more as several Asian nations – particularly China and South Korea – have rapidly increased their presence in the global share of research and development (R&D).

“The first decade of the 21st century continues a dramatic shift in the global scientific landscape,” said Dan Arvizu, chairman of the National Science Board (NSB) – the policy-making body of the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the US.

“Emerging economies understand the role science and innovation play in the global marketplace and in economic competitiveness and have increasingly placed a priority on building their capacity in science and technology,” added Arvizu, also director of the US-based National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Since 2001, the share of the world’s R&D performed in the US and Europe has decreased, respectively, from 37 percent to 30 percent and from 26 percent to 22 percent.

In this same period, the share of worldwide R&D performed by Asian countries grew from 25 percent to 34 percent.

China led the Asian expansion, with its global share growing from just 4 percent to 15 percent during this period.

China and South Korea have made significant investments in the science and technology research enterprise and enhanced science and technology training at universities.

“China tripled its number of researchers between 1995 and 2008, whereas South Korea doubled its number between 1995 and 2006. There are indications that students from these nations may be finding more opportunities for advanced education in science and employment in their home countries,” informed an NSB press release.

In addition to research and development enterprises, these countries have focused their attention on crucial sectors of the global economy – including high-tech manufacturing and clean energy.

The size of China’s high-tech manufacturing industry increased nearly six-fold between 2003 and 2012, raising China’s global share of high-tech manufacturing from eight percent to 24 percent during that decade, closing in on the US share of 27 percent, added the release.

In addition, emerging economies now invest more in clean energy – a critical 21st century industry – than advanced economies.

In 2012, emerging economies invested nearly $100 billion in clean energy, primarily wind and solar, with China serving as the ‘primary driver of investment’ with $61 billion.

Despite the erosion, US multinational companies continue to increase their R&D investments in countries such as India, Brazil and China.

It was the 2008-09 recession that took a toll on US R&D. The research expenditures declined in 2009 primarily owing to a sharp drop in business R&D which comprises the largest portion of US R&D.

“The US still remains the world’s leader in science and technology but the world is rapidly changing and other nations are challenging our predominance,” said Ray Bowen, NSB member and chairman of its committee on science and engineering indicators.

“As other countries focus on increasing their innovation capacities, we can ill afford to stand still. We now face a competitive environment undreamed of just a generation ago,” cautioned Bowen.

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