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Research & Development in Contract Funding

How much did the federal government invest in Research & Development with FY 2020 Contract Funding?

01
Agency Funding
What portion of federal agency contract funding in FY 2020 went to R&D initiatives?

Investment in Research and Development, or R&D, is largely seen as a driver of innovation in both the public and private sectors.1 From medicine to autonomous vehicles, R&D investments lead to new products, technology advancements, and improved quality of life. And in Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, R&D has been foundational to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, such as in the areas of vaccine development, production, and logistics management. To fund R&D work, federal agencies can use grants, loans, and contracts. In this analysis we focus on contracts.

Each of the 24 Chief Financial Officers (CFO) Act agencies awarded contracts to perform R&D work in FY 2020, totaling $47.8 billion. Let’s take a look at the top five CFO Act agencies by R&D contract funding and the top five agencies by COVID-19 R&D contract funding. COVID-19 R&D contract funding refers specifically to contracts funded by the four supplemental appropriations passed by congress to address the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information, including legislation and funding details, visit our Federal Response to COVID-19 analysis.

R&D as a Portion of Total Federal Contract Funding by Agency

Instructions

  • Toggle between the views to see agency funding by total R&D contracts and COVID-19 R&D contracts.

Label Definitions

DOD – Department of Defense NASA – National Aeronautics and Space Administration HHS – Department of Health and Human Services DOE – Department of Energy GSA – General Services Administration DOT – Department of Transportation DHS – Department of Homeland Security USAID – US Agency for International Development DOI – Department of the Interior ED – Department of Education

All R&D Contracts

COVID-19 R&D Contracts

Donut chart of FY 2020 federal agency R&D contract funding as a percentage of total contract funding by each agency. Below it is a bar chart of FY 2020 federal agency R&D contract funding in billions or millions by each agency. DOD & NASA have the highest R&D contract funding, with NASA having the highest R&D contract funding as a proportion of total contract funding. Toggling to the COVID-19 R&D contracts reveals a similar donut chart of FY 2020 federal agency COVID-19 R&D Contracts as a percentage of total R&D contract funding. Below this chart is a bar chart of FY 2020 federal agency COVID-19 R&D contracts in billions. HHS and DOD have the highest COVID-19 R&D contract funding, with HHS having the highest COVID-19 R&D contract funding as a proportion of total R&D contract funding.
Updated as of October 2020 /
02
Funding Categories
20 categories of R&D contract funding in FY 2020

Federal R&D contract funding supports a wide range of objectives, including agriculture, education, energy, housing, and national defense. When the government uses contracts to buy products and services, like leasing laboratory space or conducting field research, they use the General Services Administration’s Product and Services Codes (PSC). Using PSCs, we grouped R&D contract funding into 20 funding categories.

R&D Federal Funding in Contracting by Category

Instructions

In this visualization, categories are represented by icons.

  • Click or tap on an icon to see the category name, total dollars obligated for R&D in this category, and the total dollars obligated for COVID-19 R&D in this category.
  • To exit the pop-up, re-click the icon or click on the X.
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Updated as of October 2020 /
03
Top Contracts
Top R&D Contracts by Category in FY 2020

The federal government awards a variety of entities when it comes to R&D contracts. For each of the 20 categories explored in section two, we highlight the contracts with the largest amount obligated in FY 2020. We also break out the COVID-19 R&D contracts with the largest obligations in FY 2020. Clicking on the contract amounts will take you to USAspending.gov, our sister site, where you can learn about each contract in more detail.

Top R&D Contracts

Instructions

  • Toggle between the views to see each category’s top contracts by all R&D contracts and COVID-19 R&D contracts.

All R&D Contracts

COVID-19 R&D Contracts

Updated as of October 2020 /
04
The Big Picture for R&D
Long-term trends in federal R&D funding

The federal government is one of the largest and most consistent funding sources of R&D in the United States.5 In total, the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, a federal statistical agency within the National Science Foundation, reports that the federal government obligated $156 billion for R&D and R&D plant initiatives in FY 2020, which includes contracts as well as other key funding sources such as grants and agencies’ own R&D performance.6

Why does the government invest in R&D?
A common rationale for federal R&D funding is that many socially beneficial research projects would not be attempted if society depended on the private sector alone for funding.7

Federal R&D Obligations 2010-2020

Updated as of October 2020 /
Footnotes
Global R&D: One Measure of Commitment to Innovation, Global R&D: One Measure of Commitment to Innovation § (2018).
https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/2018/nsb20181/digest/sections/global-r-d-one-measure-of-commitment-to-innovation
According to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-11 (Preparation, Submission and Execution of the Budget), Section 84.2(c), the official definition of Basic Research is: Experimental or theoretical work undertaken primarily to acquire new knowledge of the underlying foundations of phenomena and observable facts. Basic research may include activities with broad or general applications in mind, such as the study of how plant genomes change, but should exclude research directed towards a specific application or requirement, such as the optimization of the genome of a specific crop species.
According to OMB Circular A-11, Section 84.2(c), the official definition of Applied Research is: Original investigation undertaken in order to acquire new knowledge. Applied research is, however, directed primarily towards a specific practical aim or objective.
According to the OMB Circular A-11, Section 84.2(c), the official definition of Experimental Development is: Creative and systematic work, drawing on knowledge gained from research and practical experience, which is directed at producing new products or processes or improving existing products or processes. Like research, experimental development will result in gaining additional knowledge.
Sargent, John F. “Federal Research and Development (R&D) Funding: FY2020.” Federal Research and Development (R&D) Funding: FY2020, March 20, 2020. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R45715
National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Federal Funds for Research and Development, Fiscal Years 2019–20. Detailed Statistical Tables. https://ncses.nsf.gov/pubs/nsf21329
Maloney, Carolyn B, and Charles E Schumer. “The Pivotal Role of Government Investment in Basic Research.” U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee. U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee, May 2010.
https://www.jec.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/29aac456-fce3-4d69-956f-4add06f111c1/rd-report--final-report.pdf
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