Facts about Basic Research and the Innovation Process
- Universities conduct the majority of basic scientific research in the United States — 53 percent in 2009. Business and industry conduct approximately 20 percent of basic scientific research in the United States. They focus instead on the later-stage applied research and development that is required to commercialize a product or technology.
- The federal government is the primary source of funding for basic scientific research conducted in the United States, providing just under 60 percent of funding. The second largest source of basic research funding is the academic institutions themselves. Industry funds relatively little basic scientific research, yet relies heavily on that research to help fuel its innovation pipeline.
- Basic scientific research is essential to scientific discovery and understanding. It is the first step in the innovation process.
- Innovations that flow from university-based basic research are at the root of countless companies, products, technologies, innovations and jobs that we take for granted today.
- Federal support for basic research is based on scientific merit and competitive peer review. In order to receive funding, researchers must submit proposals to one of several federal agencies responsible for scientific research in the U.S. These include the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the Department of Commerce, the National Science Foundation, and the National Aeronautics & Space Administration, among others.
- Applications for federal research grants far exceed the availability of funds. This is a highly competitive process where only the very best proposals – as judged by other scientists – receive funding. Less than 20 percent of the 49,592 new grant applications reviewed by the National institutes of Health in FY 2011 were funded. At the National Science Foundation, just over 20 percent of new grant applications were funded in FY 2011 – 11,200 of the 51,600 received.
- The United States leads the world in global research and development expenditures from all sources. However, China and other nations are investing aggressively in R&D in order to enhance their innovation capabilities while U.S. spending as a percentage of GDP has been flat to declining in recent years.
- America’s global competitiveness and long-term economic health depends on significant and consistent investment in basic research.