As part of its R&D 100 Awards program, the editors of R&D Magazine hold an annual roundtable discussion that addresses outstanding trends and issues in research and development. This year, the Industry Executives’ Roundtable, held Nov. 7, 2013, in Orlando, Fla., focused on industrial research, featuring executives from several organizations that invest heavily in R&D efforts. These organizations all won 2013 R&D 100 Awards.
Innovation is improbable without proper funding, which is why R&D Magazine and Battelle Memorial Institute annually project how political developments and economic conditions around the globe will affect R&D support in the coming year. Now available, the 2014 R&D Magazine/Battelle Global R&D Funding Forecast offers a comprehensive analysis of the state of industrial research worldwide.
“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known,” said astronomer Carl Sagan, who succinctly captured the essence of what it means to be a researcher. That wide-eyed sense that anything is possible through research and development, that’s the essence of a researcher’s calling.
Growth in global research and development funding slowed in 2013 from the pace of growth seen in 2011-2012. The 2013 slowdown was due primarily to unsettled European and U.S. economies that, in turn, affected global performance. R&D investments often are closely linked to GDP and economic outlook.
In the United States, R&D spending is likely to increase in 2014, turning the corner from near-zero growth in 2013. Federal funding is difficult to forecast because of the breakdown of orderly budget processes, but there are indications of bipartisan political support for increases or reallocations that favor R&D.
Federal R&D policy and implications of budget sequestration are the largest factors in funding for U.S. academic research, which has dropped from a recent high of 6% annual funding increases in 2011 to a forecast of 2% in 2014. Long recognized as an essential scientific foundation of U.S. innovation, academic research programs have been under pressure as a result.
For the past six years, the top ten countries funding R&D have remained mostly the same. There has been dramatic change, however, in the extent of globalization involved in research, as well as shifts in the way funds are spent. Driven in part by China’s aggressive programs, Southeast Asia has become the world’s largest region for research investments.
China has increased its R&D investments by 12% to 20% annually for each of the past 20 years; while at the same time, U.S. R&D spending increased at less than half those rates. As a result, China’s investment is now about 61% that of the U.S., and continuing to close.
With the large number of European Union member states, Europe’s research community is diverse in its economic composition and national interests, while central funding and administrative mechanisms allow coordinated operation of public research at a scale that is comparable to that of the United States.
As a group, the “Rest of the World” (ROW) countries—those other than the U.S., those in Europe and China—are expected to see moderate growth in their R&D investments in 2014, with leadership from countries like South Korea, Russia and Taiwan. Most Asian countries are projected to experience significant economic growth in 2014.
According to a recent study, fashions in research funding, reward structures in universities and streamlining of scientific agendas undermine traditional academic norms and may result in science bubbles. New research shows how the mechanisms that set off the financial crisis might be replicating in the field of science.
Researchers from the NIST and zeroK Nanotech Corp. have demonstrated a new ion source that may enable focused ion beams with high brightness and resolution for nanoscale fabrication and measurement applications in fields ranging from semiconductor manufacturing to biotechnology. Working under a CRADA, the researchers have constructed the first prototype of a low-temperature ion source.
The government reopened its doors after a battle-weary Congress approved a bipartisan measure to end a 16-day partial shutdown and avert the possibility of an economy-jarring default on U.S. obligations. Early Thursday, President Barack Obama signed the measure ending a brawl with Republicans who tried to use the must-pass legislation to mount a last-ditch effort to derail the president's landmark health care law.
A few desperately ill patients have managed to get into clinical trials at the National Institutes of Health's famed hospital, even though the government's partial shutdown has others being turned away, the agency said. Normally, about 200 new patients every week enroll in studies at the NIH's research-only hospital, often referred to as the "house of hope" because so many of those people have failed standard treatments.
The government shutdown has slowed or halted federal efforts to protect Americans' health and safety. The latest example: an outbreak of salmonella in chicken that has sickened people in 18 states. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that it was recalling some of its furloughed staff to deal with the outbreak, which has sickened more than 270 people.
United Technologies Corp. canceled a planned furlough of 2,000 workers after the U.S. Dept. of Defense recalled most of its civilian employees. The Hartford, Conn.-based defense contractor planned to furlough 2,000 workers starting Monday. Its Sikorsky division makes Black Hawk helicopters for the military and relies on government inspectors, who were furloughed.
Computer networking researchers at Rice Univ. have a new idea for how to handle the mountains of data piling up in the labs of their fellow scientists around campus: Create a customized, energy-efficient optical network that can feed rivers of data to Rice’s supercomputers. The new network is called BOLD and is about to become a reality, thanks to a new grant from the National Science Foundation.
At Los Alamos National Laboratory, a seven-year, $213 million upgrade to the security system that protects the laboratory's most sensitive nuclear bomb-making facilities doesn't work. Those same facilities, which sit atop a fault line, remain susceptible to collapse and dangerous radiation releases, despite millions more spent on improvement plans.
Siri and Watson may seem brainy in certain situations, but to build truly smart, world-changing machines, researchers must understand how human intelligence emerges from brain activity. To help encourage progress in this field, the National Science Foundation (NSF) recently awarded $25 million to establish a Center for Brains, Minds and Machines at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Through its Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), NIST intends to fund a six-month project in support of Alaska's efforts to diversify its manufacturing base. U.S.-based nonprofit institutions or organizations, including state and local governments, are eligible to apply for the $150,000 award.
The U.S. National Science Foundation and U.K. Research Councils have entered into a new agreement designed to help support international research partnerships between the two nations. This new, two-way, lead-agency agreement enables a simplified and flexible process for researchers wishing to apply for U.S.-U.K. collaborative research funding, using the same systems and processes within the respective funding agencies.
Scientists estimate that there is a minimum of 320,000 viruses in mammals awaiting discovery. Collecting evidence of these viruses, or even a majority of them, they say, could provide information critical to early detection and mitigation of disease outbreaks in humans. This undertaking would cost approximately $6.3 billion, or $1.4 billion if limited to 85% of total viral diversity.
Researchers at Rice Univ. and the Univ. of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have received a $1.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to create processes that will look more deeply than ever into the protein networks that drive cells. The four-year grant will enable a collaboration on new ways to see and evaluate the mechanisms that give cells their shapes and prompt them to change and move.
Research awards to the Univ. of Florida (UF) held steady last year at $640.6 million despite a slowdown in federal funding brought on by the budget sequestration. The total is within 1% of 2012’s $644.4 million. Researchers from the six colleges of UF Health brought in $363.1 million.
Researchers at Georgia Tech are helping the U.S. military make key changes in how aircraft electronic systems, called avionics, are produced. The effort focuses on modifying the design of avionics software, especially the ways in which it interfaces with an aircraft's hardware and other software. The work is part of the U.S. Navy's Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE) project.