The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation has released a new analysis showing that the United States is continuing to fall behind other developed countries in funding for university research. That has occurred despite the U.S. boasting world-leading research universities that have played a crucial role in driving American technological supremacy since World War II. The analysis found that the U.S. only came 28th worldwide for university research funding as a share of GDP in 2017 with the 12 leading governments investing nearly double the U.S. amount. Back in 2013, the U.S. was ranked 24th.
Research universities play a critical role in generating innovation-based economic growth, both through the training of scientists and engineers as well as the generation and transfer of knowledge. In 2017, the Swiss government invested 0.76% of the country's GDP in university research - over 3.7 times as high as collective U.S. state and federal funding. Denmark had the second-highest share with 0.72 % while Norway rounded off the top-three with 0.64%. Despite falling further behind other developed countries, the U.S. is by no means the only wealthy nation trailing in the investment league and it's ahead of Japan, New Zealand, China and Russia.
The analysis attributed the U.S. decline to several factors, particularly 20 years of underfunding by state governments as well as foreign universities gaining ground on their American counterparts. It also stated that if the U.S. is to regain some edge in the race for global innovation advantage, it will have to reverse those trends and significantly increase its funding for academic institutions as well as provide stronger incentives for businesses to invest in university research. In order for that to be achieved, Congress would have to commit to increasing funding by $45 billion per year which would place the U.S. among the top nations seven in the world.