China's R&D investment getting closer to U.S.

At current spending pace, China research spending will exceed that of U.S. by 2022, says research group

President Barack's Obama's fiscal 2015 budget plan would increase federal R&D spending by 1.2% over this year, if Congress approves.

The federal spending proposal for the next fiscal year would bring total R&D spending to about $135.4 billion, up by about $1.7 billion.

The federal government's 2015 fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

John Holdren, White House senior advisor on science and technology policy, said that research spending on science and technology "is doing better than might have been expected" given budget constraints.

"The U.S. still remains by far the world's largest investor in research and development in absolute terms," said Holdren, at a budget briefing Tuesday.

But Holdren added that the U.S. is getting more R&D competition.

"It is true that China, for example, has been increasing its investments at a very high rate and is now sitting at about half the investment of the United States," said Holdren. "That gap will narrow further if China continues to boost its investments in that way."

Indeed, China's total R&D funding is expected to surpass that of the U.S. by about 2022, according to the 2014 Global R&D Funding Forecast prepared by Battelle, a research and technology development organization, and R&D Magazine. ( Download report PDF)

Battelle, in the report, said China's investment now totoals about 61% of U.S. R&D spending and the gap continues to close.

Federal research spending represents about 30% of all U.S. R&D spending. The balance is done by business and other groups.

Holdren said the U.S. is trying to make up for the lack of rapid R&D growth "by being smart" about how it allocates resources. It is leveraging public resources to increase partnerships with the private sector, he said.

The Computing Research Association, in a blog post, called the budget request "underwhelming for science."

The president's latest budget plan calls for making the research and development tax credit permanent.

In other spending requests, the president's proposed budget sets $141 million for exascale development in 2015, according to the Dept. of Energy.

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov, or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His email address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

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