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Useful Stats: Sources of funds for R&D at colleges and universities, by state

March 28, 2019

Outside of the private sector, colleges and universities perform the vast majority of R&D in the United States – but where do these funds come from? An SSTI analysis of data from the National Science Foundation’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NSF NCSES) finds that, across the country, the federal government was the source of more than half (53.5 percent) of all R&D performed at colleges and universities in 2017. Institutional funds (25.1 percent), nonprofit organizations (6.8 percent), businesses (5.9 percent), state and local governments (5.6 percent), and other sources (3.0 percent) comprised the remaining sources of higher education R&D funding. The interactive chart below shows the breakdown of funding sources for research and development at colleges and universities for each state.




Higher education R&D expenditures (HERD) grew by 38.9 percent from 2008 to 2017, an increase of more than $21 billion, according to a Digest article late last year.  California remained the national leader in higher education R&D expenditures, with $9.2 billion in 2017, according to the article, with roughly 12.2 percent of the national total.

Sources of HERD funding changed noticeably during the 10-year period from 2008 to 2017. In particular, the share of HERD coming from the federal government declined from 59.3 percent to 53.5 percent during that 10-year period, while the share coming from institutional funds increased from 19.2 percent to 25.1 percent of the total. Funding from state and local governments decreased from 6.4 percent of all HERD in 2008 to 5.6 percent in 2017, while business sources grew from 5.3 percent to 5.9 percent during that same period.

Among states, the federal government contributed the most for R&D at colleges and universities in Maryland (76.7 percent), Colorado (89.9 percent), and Utah (67.7 percent). In two U.S. territories, federal funds for R&D comprised nearly all of university R&D performance – 91.2 percent of the total in Guam, and 89.2 percent of the total in the Virgin Islands. The federal government comprised just 30.5 percent of higher-ed R&D in North Dakota, the least of any state.

In several states, R&D funding was nearly as likely to come from institutional funds as it was from federal sources. Institution funds accounted for the largest source of higher-ed R&D spending in Iowa (40.2 percent), New Hampshire (38.7 percent), and Oklahoma (37.4 percent).

A recent data brief from NSF NCSES has a more detailed look at the sources of funding for R&D performed by colleges and universities by state, although their analysis uses 2016 data. Additional data on the distribution of funding sources for R&D at each state’s colleges and universities in 2017 can be found in this spreadsheet, or in the chart below.



useful stats