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social and economic trends in US


Research spending by multinational corporation

The federal government and most of the 50 states that make up the United States offer tax credits to particular industries and companies to encourage them to engage in research and development (R&D). Congress usually renews a tax credit every few years. According to a survey by The Wall Street Journal in 2012, companies do not factor in these credits when making decisions about investing in R&D, since they cannot rely on these credits being renewed.[380]

In 2014, four U.S. multinational corporations figured in the Top 50 for the volume of expenditure on R&D: Microsoft, Intel, Johnson & Johnson and Google. Several have figured in the Top 20 for at least ten years: Intel, Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and IBM. Google was included in this table for the first time in 2013.[380]

Global top 50 companies by R&D volume and intensity, 2014 * R&D intensity is defined as R&D expenditure divided by net sales. ** Although incorporated in the Netherlands, Airbus’s principal manufacturing facilities are located in France, Germany, Spain and the UK. Source: UNESCO Science Report: towards 2030 (2015), Table 9.3, based on Hernández et. al (2014) EU R&D Scoreboard: the 2014 EU Industrial R&D Investment ScoreboardEuropean Commission: Brussels, Table 2.2.

Exports of high-tech goods and patents[edit]

High-tech exports from the USA as a percentage of the world share, 2008–2013. Source: UNESCO Science Report: towards 2030, Figure 5.10, based on Comtrade database

The United States has lost its world leadership for high-tech goods. Even computing and communications equipment is now assembled in China and other emerging economies, with high-tech value-added components being produced elsewhere. Until 2010, the United States was a net exporter of pharmaceuticals but, since 2011, it has become a net importer of these goods.

The United States is a post-industrial country. Imports of high-tech products far exceed exports. However, the United States’ technologically skilled workforce produces a large volume of patents and can still profit from the license or sale of these patents. Within the United States’ scientific industries active in research, 9.1% of products and services are concerned with the licensing of intellectual property rights.[380]

When it comes to trade in intellectual property, the United States remains unrivalled. Income from royalties and licensing amounted to $129.2 billion in 2013, the highest in the world. Japan comes a distant second, with receipts of $31.6 billion in 2013. The United States’ payments for use of intellectual property amounted to $39.0 billion in 2013, exceeded only by Ireland ($46.4 billion).[