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Preliminary Results From New Business R&D Survey

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Greetings from D.C. In 2009, the National Science Foundation (NSF) piloted a new survey designed to collect a broader range of R&D-related data from U.S.-based firms. While NSF has long collected data on domestic R&D funding and performance, this new Business R&D and Innovation Survey (BRDIS) expands on prior surveys in two ways. First, it includes new or expanded data in topical areas such as R&D strategy, R&D employment, and managing intellectual property and technology transfer, among others. Second, it goes beyond historic efforts primarily focused on domestic R&D activity to include R&D activity worldwide (i.e., data on U.S.-based firms that performed or funded R&D domestically or overseas, as well as U.S. affiliates of foreign-owned firms).

NSF released three limited preliminary "findings" from the pilot stage of the survey during 2010, with more to come next year. A few highlights follow.

The first release (May) focused on worldwide sales and R&D expenditures of U.S.-based firms performing or funding R&D worldwide. For 2008 (reporting year), firms located in the U.S. that conducted some R&D activity reported approximately $11 trillion in worldwide sales and $330 billion in worldwide R&D expenditures. Of that $330 billion, $292 billion (88 percent) was for R&D performed internally by the company (as opposed to funding others to conduct R&D for them)—with $234 billion performed at their U.S. facilities and $58 billion at their foreign facilities.

The second release (July) focused on worldwide employment by surveyed firms. For 2008, these firms employed an estimated 27.1 million workers worldwide (with 1.9 million—7.1 percent—of these workers directly involved in or supporting R&D activities). U.S. employment for these firms was 18.5 million (of the 27.1 million), with 1.5 million—7.9 percent—involved in R&D. Just over 77 percent of the surveyed firms’ R&D employment was therefore located in the U.S. (1.5 million in the U.S. of the 1.9 million total worldwide).

The third release (October) focused on the "incidence of innovation" by the surveyed firms. During 2006-2008, approximately 22 percent of manufacturing firms in the survey introduced new product innovation (while only 8 percent of nonmanufacturing firms did so), and the same (22 percent for manufacturing firms and 8 percent for nonmanufacturing firms) introduced new process innovations. The findings further highlight that the "incidence of U.S. innovation varies substantially by industry sector."

As noted, these are only preliminary findings of a new business R&D survey designed to enhance our understanding of the R&D activity of U.S.-located firms performing and funding R&D worldwide. Data on items of particular interest to the tech transfer community—specifically on business efforts at managing IP and tech transfer—have yet to be released. The final results of the survey should add to our understanding of the evolving nature of the U.S. R&D enterprise in years to come.

You can find more details on the pilot survey, including links to the three findings released to date, at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/srvyindustry/about/brdis/.

Gary can be reached at gkjones@federallabs.org.

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