Source: National Science Board
Source: National Science Board

According to research released this week, China’s expenditure on research and development continues to grow at a breakneck pace, and the country will likely spend more than the US soon, if it doesn’t already.

Total annual spending on R&D in China had reached US$409 billion in 2015, according to the most recent data cited in the study from the US National Science Board. In the same year, the US was the largest spender at US$497 billion.

But the rate at which China’s spending in the area is growing indicates that it may have made up significant ground in the two years since:

China continues to exhibit the world’s most dramatic R&D growth pattern (Figure 4-6; Appendix Table 4-12). The pace of its increase in R&D performance has been exceptionally high over numerous years, averaging 20.5% annually over 2000–10 and 13.9% for 2010–15 (or 18.0% and 12.0%, respectively, when adjusted for inflation). The rate of growth in South Korea’s R&D has also been quite high, averaging 10.9% annually over 2000–10 and 7.3% for 2010–15. Japan’s corresponding rates of R&D growth have been slower, at 3.6% and 3.9%.

The R&D total for the EU was already noticeably behind China as of 2015, at US$386 billion for the year. Germany, with US$115 billion in 2015, was by far the largest spender on R&D in the region.

Despite the competition between countries, the world’s scientist are increasingly collaborative in their research, Chair of the NSB’s Science and Engineering Policy Committee Geraldine Richmond noted in a press release.

“Among the major producers of S&E publications, the United Kingdom had the highest international collaboration rate (57 percent) in 2016, followed by France (55 percent) and Germany (51 percent). The US followed with a 37 percent international collaboration rate, up 12 percent from 2006,” she noted in the NSB press statement.

“Countries also specialize in different fields of research, with the US, EU and Japan publishing heavily across the medical and biological sciences, while India and China focus on engineering.”