The UIS has published updated data on the human and financial resources devoted to R&D for 161 countries and territories. This includes the results of the UIS 2017 R&D Statistics Survey, as well as updated statistics obtained from its partners, notably the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Statistical Office of the European Union (Eurostat) and the Ibero-American Network of Science and Technology Indicators (RICYT).

The release includes updated data for the 2016 reference year and time series data for two key global indicators used to monitor Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 9.5. With SDG 9, countries have pledged to “build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation”. In particular, SDG Target 9.5 calls upon them to encourage innovation and substantially increase the number of researchers, as well as public and private spending on R&D. Both Indicators 9.5.1 and 9.5.2 (R&D expenditure as a proportion of GDP and Researchers per million inhabitants) are featured in this release.

According to the data, the top five R&D performers in relative terms (R&D expenditure as a proportion of GDP) are: Israel (4.3%) and the Republic of Korea (4.2%) being the world leaders, followed by Switzerland (3.4%), Sweden (3.3%) and Japan (3.1%). The ranking changes dramatically when viewed according to absolute terms, where large economies dominate. In absolute terms (in billion PPP dollars), the top five countries where significant R&D investments are made were: United States (511), China (452), Japan (166), Germany (119) and the Republic of Korea (78).   

Regions have been setting their own spending targets for some time. The best-known is the European Union (EU) target to raise overall R&D investment to 3% of GDP by 2020, but only two EU countries have reached this target (Sweden with 3.3% and Austria with 3.1%).

The African Union has set a target of 1% of GDP invested on R&D, but data available to the UIS show that only three sub-Saharan African countries are close to this target: South Africa, Kenya and Senegal (around 0.8% in all three countries).

In North America, the United States and Canada spent 2.7% and 1.6% of GDP on R&D respectively. In Latin America and the Caribbean, Brazil reports the highest level of R&D investment (1.3%), followed by Argentina (0.6%), Costa Rica (0.6%) and Mexico (0.5%). A considerable variation in R&D investment (as a percentage of GDP) can be seen across the countries in Central Asia (0.1% to 0.3%), East Asia (0.1% to 4.2%), and South and West Asia (0.1% to 0.6%) with the following countries being the top investors in the respective regions: Georgia (0.3%), the Republic of Korea (4.2%) and India (0.6%) respectively. R&D investment in most of the Arab States remains lower than 0.5%, though there are a few exceptions: Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (ranging from 0.6% to 1.0%).

Dynamic map 1. Research and developmental (R&D) expenditure as a proportion of GDP, latest year available 

A large proportion of R&D expenditure goes towards the wages and salaries of the R&D personnel (researchers, technicians and support staff engaged in R&D). Reflecting this, the figures for the indicator ‘Researchers per million inhabitants’ follow a similar pattern, as the trend in R&D expenditure, but there are differences. The following countries lie on top in the ranking when share of researchers in relation to total population of countries are considered: Israel (8250), Denmark (7515), Sweden (7153), the Republic of Korea (7113) and Singapore (6730). However, in terms of absolute numbers (the number of researchers in millions), China (1.69 million), the United States (1.38 million), Japan (0.67 million), the Russian Federation (0.43 million) and Germany (0.40 million) dominate.

Dynamic map 2. Researchers (in full-time equivalent) per 1 million inhabitants, latest year available

The release also includes updated data for a wide range of other R&D indicators and breakdowns, such as R&D expenditure disaggregated by sector of performance, source of funds, field of R&D, type of costs and type of R&D. Also included are data on researchers broken down by sex, level of qualifications, field of R&D, as well as data on researchers by age groups and seniority grade.

The updated data, including time series data, are available in the UIS database. They are also featured in the United Nations Statistics Division’s (UNSD) SDG indicator database as well as in numerous indices, databases and reports including UIS R&D Fact Sheets.

To consult the latest available statistics, visit the UIS database.

Follow these simple steps to extract the data:

1. Click on "Data by theme"
2. Select the theme “Science, Technology and Innovation”
3. Select the sub-theme “Research and experimental development”
4. Select a data table
5. Click "Customise" to select indicator, country and year(s)

The data are also featured in several interactive tools produced by the UIS:

UNESCO eAtlas of Research and Experimental Development
The R&D eAtlas makes it easy to visualise global and regional trends for more than 75 indicators before drilling down to country-level data. The interactive maps and charts can be shared, downloaded and embedded in websites, blogs and presentations.

How Much Does Your Country Invest in R&D?
This tool provides a global perspective on spending patterns, as well as time series data on regional and country-level commitments to R&D, in absolute terms and relative to GDP.

Women in Science
This tool lets you explore the gender gaps in the pipeline leading to a research career, from the decision to get a doctorate degree to the fields of science that women pursue and the sectors in which they work.