Governments must step up R&D in frontier technology


19/10/2015 - Countries should step up their investment in long-term R&D to develop frontier technologies that will reshape industry, healthcare and communications and provide urgently needed solutions to global challenges like climate change, according to a new OECD report.


A breakdown of patent data in the OECD Science, Technology and Industry Scoreboard 2015 puts the United States, Japan and Korea far in the lead in a new generation of “disruptive” technologies in advanced materials, health, and information and communication technology that have the potential to displace existing processes. Korea, in particular, has made great strides in these fields recently.


While Korea’s public R&D spending has quadrupled in real terms since 2000, reaching 1.2% of GDP in 2014, public R&D spending in many advanced economies has stagnated or experienced significant fluctuations, averaging less than 0.7% of GDP in 2014 in the OECD area.


“Public funding has underpinned many of the technologies driving growth today, from the digital economy to genomics. We must continue to lay the technological foundations for new inventions and solutions to global challenges like climate change and ageing and must not let investment in long-term research wane,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, presenting the report in Daejeon, Korea.


“Korea is helping drive the development of frontier technologies, and its commitment to R&D leaves it well-placed to be part of the next production revolution,” he told an international meeting of government ministers, academics and company CEOs.


Top players in frontier technologies & change from 2005-07 to 2010-12

(Share of IP5 patent families filed in US & Europe)


STI Scoreboard new 



The report shows that the US, Japan and Korea accounted for over 65% of patent families in advanced materials, health and new ICT-related technologies filed in Europe and the US in 2010-12. Korea shows the strongest relative rise since 2005-07 in filing patent families in the three areas, while the BRIICS countries are also advancing, especially China. In the ICT sector, Korea is pushing ahead in Internet of Things technologies, the EU in quantum computing, and China in Big Data.


Total R&D spending in OECD countries grew by 2.7% in real terms in 2013 to USD 1.1 trillion – a rise driven by business R&D. Governments increased R&D spending during the economic crisis to support businesses, but since 2010 R&D funded or performed by governments in many advanced economies has declined or flattened.


Cuts to R&D spending threaten to destabilise science and research systems in many advanced economies, the OECD warns.


Given that 70% of R&D in the OECD area takes place within the business sector, and tends to focus on developing specific applications that improve on previous versions, the report underscores the need for governments to keep up their spending on the more open-ended “basic research” that can spawn brand new findings and inventions relevant to a range of potential users.


Download the full report here:


For further information, please contact Catherine Bremer in the OECD Media Office in Paris or James Arkinstall (+33 1 45 24 95 56) in the Directorate for Science, Technology and Innovation.