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Large companies dominate business R&D expenditures

September 13, 2018
By: Jonathan Dworin

Companies employing more than 5,000 people represent nearly two-thirds (63.9 percent) of all business R&D in the United States, according to an analysis of NSF’s Business Research, Development, and Innovation Survey (BRDIS). With the recent release of more detailed numbers and to expand on a Useful Stats report from earlier this year, this analysis focuses on business R&D by company size. Small and mid-sized companies made up the highest share of business R&D in Alaska, New Mexico and Louisiana. In Delaware, Michigan and Oregon, large companies made up the highest share of business R&D.

Large businesses — those with more than 250 employees — make up about 88.5 percent of business R&D in the United States. This number is relatively consistent regardless of state size: large businesses comprise 89.1 percent of business R&D in the largest states (by population), and 85.5 percent of all business R&D in the smallest states. Nearly two-thirds of all business R&D (63.9 percent) in the United States comes from the very largest companies, or those with more than 25,000 employees.

Besides California ($85.7 billion), which greatly outperformed other states, large companies performed the most R&D in 2015 in Washington ($15.3 billion), Massachusetts ($14.9 billion), and Michigan ($14.7 billion). Large companies made up the largest share of business R&D in Delaware (96.9 percent), Michigan (94.1 percent), and Oregon (94.0 percent).

Besides California ($3.2 billion), the states where small companies (25 employees or less) performed the most R&D in 2015 were Massachusetts ($1.4 billion), Texas ($865 million), and New York ($719 million).

Large companies do not dominate business R&D expenditures in every state. The states where companies with more than 250 employees make up the smallest share of business R&D are Alaska (21.8 percent), New Mexico (50.8 percent), and Louisiana (57.2 percent). Among the biggest states, large companies make up the smallest share of business R&D investment in Louisiana (57.2 percent), Alabama (69.0 percent), and Virginia (72.6 percent).

The interactive map below looks at total business R&D in 2015, the percent change in business R&D from 2010 to 2015, and the share of business R&D in 2015 performed by companies with more than 2015 employees. The points for combined statistical areas use 2013 data, the most recent year where data is available. 




SSTI has made data on business R&D by company size available for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. As a note, U.S. averages were used to make estimates for the three states (Delaware, Hawaii, and Idaho) where there are issues with data suppression.  


useful stats, small businessFile Useful Stats 091318.xlsx