Australia lags behind in R & D investment

| August 29, 2023

Figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that despite Australia’s reliance on science and research and development (R&D) to navigate a challenging economic landscape, overall national investment in R&D continues its 14-year decline.

National investment in science and research across the economy—business, government and universities—fell from 1.80% in 2019/20 to 1.68% in 2021/22.

Australian Academy of Science President Professor Chennupati Jagadish said Australia’s capacity to respond to the challenges presented in the Intergenerational Report is diminishing.

“Australia urgently needs to develop a 10-year plan to boost government, higher education and business investment in R&D, so we are equipped to manage a large-scale energy transition, an ageing population, and develop critical national security technology,” Professor Jagadish said.

“If investment in R&D continues to decline by 0.1% of GDP per year, in five years’ time Australia will be among the lowest of OECD countries.

“Conversely, if Australia increased investment in R&D by 0.1% of GDP each year, we would reach the OECD average in 10 years if the average stayed the same.

“Increasing investment in R&D across all sectors—business, universities and governments—is necessary to improve productivity, boost the knowledge economy, and create new jobs and industries.

“Australia has one of the world’s least differentiated economies. We remain vulnerable when our prosperity relies on such a narrow range of industries.

“It is imperative we improve Australia’s economic complexity, which can be driven by a more strategic focus on science and research—the fuel for innovation and industry growth,” Professor Jagadish concluded.

How does Australia compare to other countries when it comes to gross domestic expenditure on R&D as a % of GDP?

  • Korea – 4.80%
  • Sweden – 3.49%
  • United States – 3.47%
  • Japan – 3.27%
  • Germany – 3.13%
  • Great Britain – 2.93%
  • OECD AVERAGE – 2.74%
  • Iceland – 2.47%
  • Norway – 2.24%
  • China – 2.23%
  • Canada – 1.89%
  • Australia – 1.68%
  • New Zealand – 1.40%
  • Ireland  – 1.23%

Source: OECD Main Science and Technology Indicators, 2020