G20 : Economic Cooperation ahead

Research and Development Scenario in India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Research and development and Research Intensity



  • US, has retained its global leadership for almost a century since World War I thanks to the culture of innovation backed by a solid base of research and development (R&D). China is challenging the leadership of US based on technology and innovation. If India wants to be a Vishwa guru it must invest in R&D.

Click and get your FREE Copy of CURRENT AFFAIRS Micro Notes

Innovation and missing R&D Investment

  • Engine of growth: Innovation is rightly recognized as an engine for economic growth.
  • Atal innovation Mission: In 2016, the government launched the Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) to create an ecosystem to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in the country.
  • Actual spending is less: All these are steps in the right direction, but the foundation of all this lies in how much India actually spends on R&D, both in absolute terms as well as a percentage of its GDP, in relation to other G20 countries.
  • Sustainable Target: SDG Target 9.5 calls upon nations to encourage innovation and substantially increase the numbers of researchers as well as public and private spending on R&D. Gross domestic expenditure on R&D (GERD) is the proposed aggregate to quantify a country’s commitment to R&D.

What is the scenario of Global Investment in R&D?

  • Institute for Statistics (UIS): According to UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics (UIS) latest report, the G20 nations accounted for 90.6 per cent of global GERD (current, PPP$) in 2018.
  • Increased spending on R&D: Global R&D expenditure has reached a record high of about 2.2 trillion current PPP$ (2018), while Research Intensity (R&D expenditure as a percentage of GDP) has gradually increased from 1.43 per cent in 1998 to 1.72 per cent in 2018.
  • Investment in PPP terms is inaccurate: Though looking at spending in PPP terms is a reasonable metric for welfare measurement in the economy, when it comes to technological prowess in high-end activities of R&D, it all boils down to measuring hard currency in US dollars.


Investment in R&D by G20 countries

  • G20 leader in investment: The G20 countries, accounting for 86.2 per cent of the global GDP and over 60 per cent of the global population in 2021, are the leaders in every way.
  • USA spends the Highest: The US leads the G20 by spending $581.6 billion on R&D followed by the European Union ($323 billion), and China ($297.3 billion) in 2018.
  • India spends negligible amount: India lags way behind with a paltry R&D expenditure of only $17.6 billion in 2018. In terms of their relative shares in G20 R&D expenditure, the US is way ahead with 36 per cent, followed by the EU (20 per cent), and China (18 per cent). India’s share is less than 1 per cent of G20 R&D expenditure in dollar terms.


Linkages between Research Intensity and Expenditure on R&D

  • Percentage to GDP: While the absolute expenditure on R&D provides a sense of scale, their percentage to the respective GDP provides the research intensity (RI).
  • South Korea Highest RI: It is interesting to note that in 2018 for which the latest information is available, South Korea has the highest RI at 4.43 per cent, followed by Japan (3.21 per cent), Germany (3.09 per cent), the US (2.83 per cent), France (2.19 per cent), China (2.14 per cent) and EU (2.02 per cent). India is ranked 17th in the G20, with a RI of 0.65 per cent (see infographics).
  • Example of Israel: One of the non-G20 countries is Israel, which, while having an R&D expenditure of just $18.6 billion, a population of only 9.3 million and a per capita income of around $51,430, has the highest RI of over 5 per cent. No wonder, Israel is known as a land of innovations, be it in defence or agriculture.


What India can learn from Israel?

  • Innovation growth and competition: The innovation system in Israel is a fundamental driver of its economic growth and competitiveness.
  • Active role of government: The government has played an important role in financing innovation, particularly in SMEs, and in providing well-functioning frameworks for innovation, such as venture capital (VC), incubators, strong science-industry links, and high-quality university education.
  • India can emulate Israel: Israel builds a strong case to show that despite being a smaller nation, sustainable growth can be achieved by prioritising investments in R&D. A lesson India can learn.

Mains Question

Q. What is difference between investment in R&D and research intensity? What is the missing part in India’s R&D and innovation ecosystem?



Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


Join us across Social Media platforms.

💥Mentorship New Batch Launch
💥Mentorship New Batch Launch