US R&D: 27 Million Workers; $11 trillion in sales

US faces challenges but National Science Foundation report finds scientific R&D employment, sales abundant

US companies that performed or funded research and development domestically or in their overseas locations--employed 27.1 million workers worldwide in 2008, according to a new National Science Foundation report.  The report comes on the heels of a report by the same company that found those companies reported worldwide sales of $11 trillion in 2008 and spent $330 billion on R&D.

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The hottest R&D fields include scientific R&D services at 31%; communications equipment at 27%, and computer systems design and related services is at 25%. The semiconductor, electronic components, software publishers and pharmaceuticals accounted for about half of worldwide company-performed R&D expenditures in 2008.

The study -- which represent the first employment statistics from the new Business R&D and Innovation Survey (BRDIS), developed jointly by NSF and the US Census Bureau -- also showed R&D employees accounted for 1.9 million jobs, or 7.1% of jobs at US R&D companies worldwide. The domestic portion of total employment was 18.5 million workers, including 1.5 million R&D employees. That means domestic R&D employment accounted for almost 8% of companies' total domestic employment and for 77% of their worldwide R&D employment, BRDIS stated.

Policymakers and industry officials consider these numbers important because workers engaged in R&D activities directly influence the creation and diffusion of knowledge, and in turn contribute to innovation and economic growth, BRDIS stated.

The BRDIS study comes in the same week the Government Accountability Office (GAO) lambasted the US government for not effectively leading the charge on a national cybersecurity R&D agenda.  Specifically, the GAO said a Lack of funding, leadership, national agenda all hurt network security R&D.

In that report the GOA recommended a number of action items that the US should enact including:

  • Establish a comprehensive national R&D agenda. The agenda should include priorities for short-term, mid-term, and long-term complex cybersecurity R&D;
  • Identify and report shortages in researchers in the cybersecurity field to the national Cybersecurity Coordinator, which should be used to update the national cybersecurity strategy with the appropriate plans for addressing human capital weaknesses.
  • Establish a mechanism, in working with the Office of Management and Budget and consistent with existing law, to keep track of all ongoing and completed federal cybersecurity R&D projects and associated funding, to the maximum extent possible without jeopardizing national security.

Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8  

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