PARIS: Korea has emerged as the world leader in R&D expenditure as a percentage of GDP, followed by Israel, Japan, Finland and Sweden, while the top five performers in overall investment are US, China, Japan, Germany and Republic of Korea.
According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, only six countries worldwide have managed to surpass the 3% target, and three are smaller EU economies: Denmark, Finland and Sweden. These, in turn, lag behind Japan with 3.6% and Israel with an impressive 4.1%. And all of them trail behind South Korea – the world leader – with 4.3%. Austria, Germany and Switzerland hover around 3% as does the biggest spender of all: the United States.
“Innovation is key to achieving each of the Sustainable Development Goals. So it is essential to track R&D investment in the knowledge, technology and thinking that drives innovation in countries,” said Silvia Montoya, Director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.
SDG 9 calls on governments to promote sustainable industrialization and innovation by ramping up spending on R&D and increasing the number of researchers. Both indicators are featured in the new data tool entitled: ‘How much does your country invest in R&D?
Regions have been setting their own spending targets for some time: the best-known being the European Union (EU) target to raise overall R&D investment to 3% of GDP by 2020. Few countries in other regions compete with these proportions.
In Central and Eastern Europe, Slovenia leads with 2.4% compared to the Russian Federation at 1.2%. In Central Asia, the figure hovers around 0.2%, as in the case for Kazakhstan. Morocco tops the league in the Arab States with just 0.7%. Brazil is the leader in Latin America, with 1.2%, while India leads in South and West Asia with 0.8%. In Africa, the African Union is aiming for 1%, but only Kenya, Mali and South Africa approach the target.
China is achieving an astonishing average annual growth rate of 18.3% in R&D spending, compared to just 1.4% across the rest of the world’s upper-middle-income countries, according to UIS data. China’s R&D spending only amounts to 2% of its GDP, but this means that the country is pouring about PPP$369 billion into this sector each year. As the share of global R&D expenditure by high-income countries fell from 88% in 1996 to 69.3% by 2013, China alone filled that gap, increasing its share from 2.5% to 19.6%.