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Task Force Report Highlights Threats to U.S. Scientific Leadership

A new report warns of increasing challenges to America’s global leadership in science, technology, and innovation.

The Task Force on American Innovation, a non-partisan alliance of leading American companies and business associations, research university associations, and scientific societies, today released a major new report – Second Place America? Increasing Challenges to U.S. Scientific Leadership.

The report benchmarks the U.S. against other nations in five major areas: (1) R&D investment; (2) knowledge production; (3) education; (4) workforce; and (5) high-tech sectors of the economy. Although the U.S. continues to lead in many of these areas, other countries are rapidly developing their innovation capacities and could soon outperform the United States, warns the report.

The report shows that the U.S. share of global R&D is diminishing, while competitor nations are surging ahead. Notably, China is on track to surpass the United States in total R&D expenditures, according to data cited in the report (see graph 1.2 below). This comes on the heels of China’s much-noted Made in China 2025 strategy issued in 2015, which seeks to establish Chinese dominance in high-tech manufacturing areas such as robotics, aerospace and energy-saving vehicles. Other countries have also developed ambitious scientific strategies and aggressive R&D spending goals, as detailed in the report.

TFAI Graph 1.2


The benchmarks indicate that the U.S. is underinvesting in the physical sciences and engineering fields, and has fallen behind China in research publication output – both overall and in key fields such as physics, chemistry, geosciences, and mathematics (see graph 2.5 below). The U.S. is trailing in other measures, including its output of bachelor’s and doctoral degrees in science and engineering, as well as the number of researchers in the workforce. Meanwhile, the U.S. faces heightened competition from abroad in sectors important to U.S. national security and industrial growth, including supercomputing, artificial intelligence, and biotechnology.

TFAI Graph 2.5


To maintain America’s global leadership status, the report recommends the development and execution of a competitive science strategy that includes increased funding for scientific research. The report also calls for targeted investments in new programs to grow, attract, and retain domestic and international STEM talent.

“Given that federal investments have a direct impact on future economic growth, prosperity, and national security, increasing the current level of investments in the U.S. research enterprise is critical to ensuring that our nation remains the global innovation leader,” declares the report.

To learn more, download the full report here.