Fast Company

USA to Soon Trail Developing Countries in R&D, Asia on the Rise: UNESCO Report

Like competitiveness in other areas such as entrepreneurship, math, science, and education, the U.S. may soon lose out to India and China when it comes to research and development.

The United States has decreased its research and development (R&D) prowess and is increasingly threatened by the scientific capabilities and innovations of developing countries like India and China, indicates a UNESCO report released today. The UNESCO Science Report reveals that Asia has increased its global share of R&D to 32%, up from 27% in 2002, and the global share of R&D out of the EU, Japan, and the U.S. combined has decreased from 83% to 76%, though they remain the leader in number of yearly patents initiated.

“The distribution of research and development (R&D) efforts between North and South has changed with the emergence of new players in the global economy,” says UNESCO Director General, Irina Boko, in the report.

The news is in line with recent Fast Company reporting about the decline of America's competitiveness and dwindling quality of math and science education, as well as emerging "South-South" collaborations between India and African nations, especially in infrastructure development and vaccine research.The changing trends point to the ever-increasing role of India and China and to some extent South Africa in providing the world with leading scientific and technological discoveries.

While the report attributes "the rapid diffusion of Internet in the South" as a leading catalyst for the changing global R&D dynamics, it is also clear that increases in middle class populations, education, and access to finance are spurring innovation and overall development of the countries in question.

China, with 1,423,400 researchers, is now "on the verge of overtaking the USA and the European Union," according to UNESCO.

The report also touches on the issue of brain drain as a serious concern, but despite the issue, developing countries continue to increase their R&D capabilities.

Follow me, Jenara Nerenberg, on Twitter.

[Image: flickr user Argonne National Laboratory]

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