The geographic footprint of innovation is changing dramatically as research and development programs become more global. An overwhelming 94 percent of the world’s largest innovators now conduct elements of their R&D programs abroad, according to the 2015 Global Innovation 1000 study, our annual analysis of corporate R&D spending. These companies are shifting their innovation investment to countries in which their sales and manufacturing are growing fastest, and where they can access the right technical talent. Not surprisingly, innovation spending has boomed in China and India since our 2008 study, when we first charted the global flows of corporate R&D spending. Collectively, in fact, more R&D is now conducted in Asia than in North America or Europe.
Perhaps more unexpectedly, innovation spending in the U.S. has held relatively steady as a share of global innovation spending, despite increases in the amount of R&D that U.S. firms conduct in Asia. This is due in part to companies from other countries increasing their R&D activity in the United States; Silicon Valley, in particular, has been a powerful draw. Innovation spending in Europe, in contrast, grew more modestly and unevenly, with some countries, such as France and the U.K., showing net decreases in domestic R&D spending from 2007 to 2015. More European companies are choosing to expand their R&D operations elsewhere, in both low-cost countries in Asia (defined as countries where the average annual engineering salary is less than US$35,000) and high-cost countries such as the United States.
For leading companies, implementing a global innovation strategy is paying off. We found that firms that favor a more global R&D footprint outperform their less globalized competitors on a variety of financial measures. This is important, because, as in previous years, we found no statistically significant evidence that higher levels of spending guarantee better results. Our refrain has long been that it’s not how much you spend on research and development, but how you spend it. But it’s also where you spend that determines your success — and our 2015 study shows that decisions about R&D location look very different today than they did less than a decade ago (see Exhibit 1).
Worldwide, R&D spending by the Global Innovation 1000 companies — the 1,000 public corporations worldwide that spent the most on researching and developing products and services for their markets — rose 5.1 percent to $680 billion in 2015, the strongest increase in the last three years. Companies headquartered in the U.S., Europe, and Japan continued to account for a large majority of innovation spending: 86 percent in 2015 (see “Profiling the Global Innovation 1000
Wait! Before you go…
Choose how you want the latest innovation content delivered to you:
- Daily — RSS Feed — Email — Twitter — Facebook — Linkedin Today
- Weekly — Email Newsletter — Free Magazine — Linkedin Group