Global hotspots for R&D investment

If STEM is truly to build the future the world needs, governments and organisations need to invest in research and development (R&D) programmes to ensure advancement in the future.

Female executive with her arms crossed, wearing black glasses and black suit smiling out window of office looking at the horizon

Countries around the world urgently need to spend more on research and development (R&D), according to the UNESCO Science Report: the race against time for smarter development. Although research spending has increased in most regions, 80% of countries still spend less than 1% of GDP.

So, where are the hotspots that offer the best opportunities for STEM professionals? Our map below provides some insight. Based on World Bank data, the map reveals that those countries with traditional STEM expertise continue to invest, with Japan, the US, UK, Germany and the Netherlands all performing strongly. Israel, Sweden and the Republic of Korea also stand out.

In fact, R&D investment has increased around the world and between 2014 and 2018 global research spending rose by 19.2%, outpacing the growth of the global economy (+14.8%). This translated into a rise in research intensity from 1.73% to 1.79% of GDP and has fuelled the increasing demand for STEM talent.

This focus on science and technology perhaps explains why there continues to be a strong demand for STEM expertise despite a more challenging economy since 2020 and why, of the 5,000 candidates who responded to our ‘How the STEM World Works’ survey, almost 90% believe that demand for their skills will stay the same or increase in the coming year.

Jump to the map

STEM is the bedrock of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

The need to invest in R&D and the talent that supports it has arisen in part because nations everywhere are facing dual transitions. They are transitioning to a green economy in line with the Paris Agreement, and to a digitized economy where new technologies improve public services and payment systems, support business and combat corruption and tax evasion.

The UNESCO report explains: “To succeed in the dual transition, governments will not only need to spend more on R&D; they will also need to invest these funds strategically. This will entail taking a long-term view and aligning their economic, digital, environmental, industrial and agricultural policies, among others, to ensure that these are mutually reinforcing.”

Together with growing investment, government policies are fostering the emergence of smart manufacturing, smart finance (fintech), smart healthcare services like telemedicine, and smart agriculture. This change is being driven by technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, big data, the Internet of Things and blockchain, which are converging with nanotechnology, biotechnology and cognitive sciences to form the bedrock of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The value of science and technology in today’s society was highlighted during the Covid-19 pandemic, when scientists shared information and data with one another, beginning with the sequenced genome of the coronavirus early in 2020. Technology proved its value in an emergency with, for example, Brazil calling on 140 telemedicine and e-health centres to provide virtual consultations and remote monitoring.

International R&D hotspots

Digital technologies are considered vital for future economic competitiveness, particularly AI and robotics. Many countries have set up institutional mechanisms to foster the adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies. For example, South Africa appointed a Presidential Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution in 2019, while the Republic of Korea has had a Presidential Committee on the Fourth Industrial Revolution since 2017.

Between 2016 and 2020, more than 30 countries adopted dedicated strategies for AI. While Canada is striving to assume leadership in the international conversation on the potential social impact of AI, China, the Russian Federation and the US are vying for competitive advantage in the field.

Renewable energy is also at the heart of the dual transition and was the only energy sector to see growth at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. Renewable energy systems have become more cost-effective than the alternatives, thanks largely to advances in wind and solar energy technology. The development of hydrogen fuel cell technology is a focus for both Japan and the Republic of Korea.

Our map provides some context about each county’s performance. Simply hover the cursor over each one to reveal its STEM story, alternatively hold down ‘ctrl’ and scroll to zoom in/out using a mouse.

Global hotspots for R&D investment

 

Read more insights

Flexible staffing solutions for challenging times
26 January 2023

Flexible staffing solutions for challenging times

Companies increasingly want to staff projects with on-demand and agile STEM skills, during tough times employers want flexible options. F...

How contractors can thrive in a recession
24 January 2023

How contractors can thrive in a recession

A new generation of STEM professionals are turning their backs on permanent positions as contracting becomes more popular. Find out why...

STEM re-skilling will ‘open doors’ for job seekers
19 January 2023

STEM re-skilling will ‘open doors’ for job seekers

The rapid growth of new technologies means new skills are required for future jobs, and STEM can be an answer. Find out more

STEM professionals are well placed to ride out recessions
17 January 2023

STEM professionals are well placed to ride out recessions

During severe economic downturns, employees with STEMs skills are likely to enjoy better job security than those without them. Discover more

Global report
12 January 2023

Global report

In our global report we look at what influences early career talent into STEM, and how can employers attract the talent of the future

European report
12 January 2023

European report

What influences early career European talent into STEM, and how can employers in Europe attract the talent of the future?

United States report

United States report

What influences early career American talent into STEM, and how can employers in America attract the talent of the future?

Asia Pacific report
12 January 2023

Asia Pacific report

What influences early career Asian talent in STEM, and how can employers in the Asia Pacific region attract the talent of the future?

African snapshot
12 January 2023

African snapshot

What influences early career African talent in STEM, and how can employers in Africa attract the talent of the future?