Backgrounder. Australian businesses as investors in research and development. December page 1

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1 Backgrounder Australian businesses as investors in research and development December 2014 page 1

2 Backgrounder Australian businesses as investors in research and development Executive summary Australia s universities perform well in global rankings which give particular weight to research capabilities and performance. Australia has 19 universities in the current ARWU top 500. While there are no business rankings comparable to those available for universities, Australia has five companies in the top 500 in a ranking based on research and development expenditure and 15 in the top Business research and development expenditure has a high degree of concentration with the world s top companies responsible for more than 90 per cent of global expenditure and the top 500 responsible for around 50 per cent. In Australia firms with more than 200 employees are responsible for around 66 per cent of national business expenditure on research and development but make up less than 0.5 per cent of Australia s employing businesses. Business research is also highly variable between different industry sectors and differences in sector mix help explain differences between nations and regions. US companies spend around 10 per cent of their research and development expenditure extramurally but 96 per cent of this goes to other companies and only 3 per cent of this extramural expenditure goes to universities. Australian business sources 1 per cent of its research expenditure from other businesses and spends around 2 per cent of its total research and development expenditure in universities. US universities have reported that business funded 4.9 per cent (or $3.2 billion) of their $65 billion total in research and development expenditures in In 2010 business funded 4.1 per cent of Australian higher education research. Introduction Global rankings of universities receive a lot of attention from the media, the higher education sector and individual universities. While such rankings have their shortcomings and the position of individual universities will vary according to the particular criteria a ranking scheme uses to assess institutional excellence, they nevertheless provide a tool that provides information useful for a variety of purposes. Having highly ranked universities can be a source of national pride (and some governments set themselves targets for the number of universities they wish to see within the top one or two hundred); students and academic staff can use rankings in deciding where they might like to work or study; university leaders can use them for benchmarking and to help identify the strategies they will use to lift their performance in areas the ranking schemes deem to be important or influential; a high ranking can provide a useful marketing tool; and falling performance can support an argument that institutions need better or more effective public support if they are to maintain the national reputation for a high quality higher education system. As is well known, the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) rating builds on a number of performance measures but those relating to research are especially influential. An emphasis on research and research excellence reflects the important role that research universities play in the national and global innovation systems and the importance of university research in providing a necessary intellectual base for innovation across all the page 2

3 other sectors. Australia takes some satisfaction in having 19 universities in the current ARWU top 500 universities, including eight in the top 200 and four in the top This is a very creditable performance given Australia s population. Similarly, the THE world university rankings demonstrate a similar level of performance and that on a regional basis Australian universities make up 9 of the top 10 universities in Oceania. 2 Given this level of excellence demonstrated by Australia s universities, an interesting question is how Australian business might perform on a similar global ranking. This is not just a matter of idle curiosity. Policy makers are paying more and more attention to the development and improvement of business university linkages. These require a capacity on both sides and although collaborations involving business and universities encompass much more than research, recent debate has had a focus on the need to have better research linkages to capture the benefits of university research. Ranking of companies according to research and development expenditure The 2013 EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard provides a ranking of the world s top global businesses according to their expenditure on research and development. 3 Table 1 extracts from the Scoreboard data on those companies it identifies as Australian. While Australia has five of the top 100 universities in the THE ranking, 4 its top-ranked business in terms of research and development expenditure is Telstra, at position number 151. While Australia has 19 universities in the top 500 listed in the ARWU, it has five businesses in the top 500 included in the Scoreboard. In fact the listing of the top companies in the Scoreboard includes only 15 Australian businesses. An examination of the companies in Table 1 may contain a few revelations. The high ranking of CSL and Cochlear seems consistent with expectations, given the reputation of these companies and the sectors in which they operate. The higher ranking of the banks might seem less intuitive, even given their high dependency on complex computer and communications technologies. However, the appearance of Aristocrat Leisure, a maker of gaming machines, with a global rank of 915 and an Australian rank of nine, might be more surprising. What is more, of the top 10 Australian companies in the list, Aristocrat Leisure has the highest research intensity, spending 15.9 per cent of its revenues on research. (Cochlear has a research intensity of 15.5 percent, CSL of 7.5 per cent.) In examining the research expenditure data in Table 1, it is important to note that the figures presented are for the total research and development expenditure by the company. The approach taken in the Scoreboard is to attribute each company s total research and development investment to the country in which the company has its registered office. Australian registered companies may well be spending some of their research budget overseas and, conversely, overseas registered companies may be (and are) investing in research performed in Australia. (ABS data show that in firms having over 50 per cent of foreign ownership were responsible for over 30 per cent of Australian business expenditure on research and development.) Nevertheless, the overall research culture of a company is likely to be a function of its total investment in research; and the head office and board will normally have a major influence on this and the processes for distributing it. The distribution of research and development expenditure between companies is very uneven. The Scoreboard includes 111 companies each of which spent more than 1.0 billion on research. Of these, 55 had spent 2.0 billion or more (21 from the US, 18 from the EU and 11 from Japan). Twelve companies (six in the US, two in Germany, two in Switzerland, and one each in Germany and South Korea) each invested more than 5.0 billion on research and development, while Volkswagen, the top ranking company, had spent 9.5 billion. (Volkswagen s 2012 research expenditure amounts to around A$13.6 billion at an exchange rate of This compares to Australia s total business expenditure on research and development of $18.3 billion in ) Telstra, the highest ranked Australian company (with a global rank of 151) invested million. This skewed distribution of research investments between companies appears even more dramatic when one realises that the total research and development investment of the companies included in the Scoreboard is equivalent to more than 90 per cent of the total expenditure on research and development by businesses worldwide. 5 Moreover, the top 100 companies in the Scoreboard account for 54.6 per cent of the total research and development investment by the companies or almost 50 per cent of global business expenditure on research EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard, p EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard, p.31 page 3

4 In Australia the importance of larger companies is shown by the fact that firms having over 200 employees are responsible for almost 66 per cent of Australia s total business expenditure on research and development; by comparison firms employing five to 19 persons account for 8 per cent and firms employing fewer than five persons together account for just over five per cent. 7 Of Australia s employing businesses, only (0.4 per cent) have over 200 employees and 24 per cent employ five to 19 persons and 69 per cent employ fewer than five persons. 8 Clearly, a very small group of large companies is responsible for most business research and development. One reason for this is that because of the very high risks of research and innovation, companies investing heavily in research prefer to maintain a broad portfolio of projects such that those which succeed more than compensate for those which fail. 9 Companies that are unable to do this generally need to limit their ambition to more incremental forms of innovation, seeking out minor improvements to existing goods or services, or buying in new technologies that may provide an advantage against local competitors. These large differences in research investment between firms, and the consequences of this for the kinds of research and innovation in which smaller firms might invest, become important at a national level. They set the context for the development of local innovation policies. The presence or absence of firms having large research investments has a major influence on the opportunities that exist for the development of sustainable universitybusiness linkages centred on research collaboration. The reality is that benchmarking countries in terms of the proportion of their GDP spent on research has some value but it ignores the facts that the absolute amounts of investment are important and that the distribution of these amounts between players is also critical in determining the nature of the innovation that is possible, or likely, within the business sector. For this reason, it is worth looking at the location of the top performing research and development countries. Not surprisingly, the US tops the list with 658 firms included; the European Union countries together have 527; Japan has 353; China 93; Taiwan 82; South Korea 56; Switzerland 54; Cayman Islands 49; India 22; Canada 17; Australia 15; Israel 15; Norway 11; Bermuda 10; and Brazil 8. The remaining companies are based in a further 13 countries. This concentration of business research takes place within as well as between countries. For example, a report by the National Science Foundation has noted that in 2011 five (of the 50) US states performed nearly 50 per cent of the $239 billion of research paid by and performed by US businesses. The five States were California, Washington, Texas, Massachusetts and Michigan. Not unexpectedly, the companies performed most of this research in large metropolitan areas. 10 Australia, in part because of the absence of firms having very large research expenditures, seems to exhibit a lesser degree of concentration with NSW responsible for 35 per cent of Australia s business expenditure on research and development, Victoria 22 per cent, Western Australia 20 per cent and Queensland 14 per cent. 11 Another factor having a significant effect on research investments is the sector in which the company operates. For example, out of 40 industrial sectors identified in the Scoreboard, the top three Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology; Technology Hardware and Equipment; and Automobiles and Parts account for 50.2 per cent of the total research and development investment by the Scoreboard companies. 12 The ranking of industrial sectors in terms of their global research expenditure is as follows: 1. Pharmaceuticals & Biotechnology 2. Technology Hardware & 3. Automobiles & Parts 4. Software & Computer Services 5. Electronic & Electrical Equipment 6. Industrial Engineering 7. Chemicals 8. Aerospace & Defence 9. General Industrials Go8 backgounder, https://go8.edu.au/publication/complementarity-between-university-and-business-research discussed the risks associated with innovation and research EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard, p.39 page 4

5 10. Leisure Goods 11. Health Care Equipment & Services 12. Oil & Gas Producers 13. Fixed Line Telecommunications 14. Banks 15. Food Producers This global ranking is quite different from the sector ranking of the Australian firms included in the Scoreboard, which, in terms of total expenditure, is shown below. The figure in brackets referring to the proportion of the total expenditure of the Australian companies in the Scoreboard accounted for by the companies in each sector. As can be seen, the banks are the top research investing sector of the Australian companies in the Scoreboard. Moreover, the three banks included account for almost half of all the research expenditure of the 15 Australian companies included in the top global companies. 1. Banks (47 per cent) 2. Technology hardware & equipment (25 per cent) 3. Pharmaceuticals & biotechnology (9.4 per cent) 4. Industrial metals & mining (4.4 per cent) 5. Healthcare equipment & services (3.1 per cent) 6. Chemicals (3 per cent) 7. General industrials (2.8 per cent) 8. Travel & leisure (2.5 per cent) 9. Software & computer services (2.4 per cent) 10. General retailers (1 per cent) It is important to note that this distribution takes into account only the research performed by the individual companies large enough to appear in the Scoreboard and whose registered office is in Australia. Most Australian firms do not have a sufficiently large expenditure to appear in the Scoreboard and the sectoral distribution between industry sectors of overall Australian research expenditure in is as follows: 1. Manufacturing $4 474 million (24 per cent) 2. Mining $4 104 million (22 per cent) 3. Financial and insurance services $2 985 million (16 per cent) 4. Professional, scientific and technical services $2 832 million (16 per cent) Together, these four sectors accounted for more than three quarters (79 per cent) of Australia s total expenditure on business research and development in One reason that mining does not appear in the Scoreboard sector ranking is that it lists as UK companies both Rio Tinto (ranked 726 in the Scoreboard) and BHP Billiton (ranked 1086). Because of the skewed distribution of research investment across firms and sectors, the number of firms in itself is not a good guide to the level of expenditure in each region. The Scoreboard notes (page 22) for example, that: most of the differences in R&D intensity and profitability between regions and countries are related to differences in sector mix. The US is by far the strongest region in the group of high R&D intensity sectors including pharmaceuticals, health, software, and technology hardware whereas the EU and Japan are stronger in medium R&D intensity sectors like the automotive sector. This means that country comparisons that do not take these factors into account can be misleading. 13 page 5

6 While Australia is home to 0.75 per cent of the top research and development performing companies, the total expenditure of those Australian companies amounts to 0.55 per cent of the total research and development investment by those companies. Moreover, Australia s total business expenditure on research and development in amounted to around 2.4 per cent of the expenditure of the companies included in the Scoreboard, although the number of companies performing research in Australia is over The number of businesses registered for the research and development tax concession in 2011 was (increased from in 1995). 14 Moreover, it is likely that the tax concession figures underestimate the number of research active businesses. For example, at 30 June 2006, there were around companies registered for the research and development tax concession for the financial year, with a total expenditure of $7.7 billion. 15 In that same year, the ABS recorded business expenditure on research and development as being $8.7 billion, 16 suggesting that not all research performing businesses had registered. Extramural expenditure on research and development by companies An important reason for having an interest in the global ranking of Australian companies with respect to their research and development expenditure is that it provides some context for discussions of the extent to which business can develop sustainable research and development collaborations with universities. This has a number of aspects. Most obviously, the greater the research budget of a company, the greater its ability to invest in research performed outside the company. Moreover, the greater the investment the more likely it becomes that the researchers employed by the company will generate the knowledge and information that lead to an understanding of the potential for research collaboration with other players in the field. The trend to open innovation, which embraces a wide range of activities from merger and acquisition to the contracting of research and licensing, and which helps companies outsource some of the risks associated with early stage research, is another factor leading to an increase in extramural expenditure. On the other hand, a small company, or one which does not have a significant in-house research program, might have a greater need to make use of extramural capabilities. However, these situations are very different and need distinct approaches to make them work as they serve quite different needs. One measure of the extent of extramural expenditure on research and development by business is that in 2011, US-located companies outsourced $29.6 billion of their research and development expenditure. This amount included contract or otherwise purchased research and development ($24 billion) and payments to research and development collaborators ($5.6 billion). Most of this money ($25.3 billion or 85 per cent) went to US partners. 17 The move to open innovation has led to an increase in the amount of extramural expenditure and also to an increase of a company s total research budget being spent outside the firm. One indication of this is that: In 2011, extramural R&D was more than 10% of the amount that companies based in the United States spent on their company-funded, company-performed U.S. R&D. Comparable estimates from the Survey of Industrial Research and Development put this ratio under 4% in While US firms are outsourcing almost $30 billion a year in research, 96 per cent of this expenditure goes to other companies a reflection of how open innovation tends to work. In 2010 only three per cent of this extramural expenditure, which in total represented around 10 per cent of total business investments in research, went to universities and colleges, and most of these were domestic. In other words, US businesses invest in universities 3 per cent of 10 per cent (or only 0.3 per cent) of their total research investment. By way of comparison, in , the Australian business sector spent $18 billion on research but sourced only one per cent of this from other businesses. 19 However, Australian business invested $335 million of their total research expenditure in research performed by universities. While this amounted to less than 2 per cent of total business research expenditure, this figure stacks up well against the US figures. On the other hand, one reason for this may be the relative lack of research capabilities in business and the need of business to draw on external expertise outside the business sector. (This may also help explain why according to the OECD Australia ranks 31 out of 34 countries according to the proportion of firms collaborating on innovation activities and 33 out of 33 in a ranking of countries according to firms collaborating on innovation with higher education or public research institutions. 20 ) 14 p (page 4) The proportion of business research funded by other businesses varies widely from country to country. For example, according to the OECD STI Scoreboard 2013, in New Zealand and Canada more than 20 per cent of industry-funded BERD comes from other firms. 20 Science, Technology and Industry (STI) Scoreboard 2013 (p.125) page 6

7 Another way to look at business use of university research capabilities is to take the perspective of the universities and examine the contribution business funding makes to total university research expenditure. Universities in the US have reported that business funded 4.9 per cent (or $3.2 billion) of their $65 billion total in research and development expenditures in This percentage has remained very stable since the late 1970s at between 5 per cent and 7 per cent of total university research and development expenditures. For comparison, the latest ABS higher education research statistics show that business funded 4.1% of Australian higher education research in 2010; and 4.9% in There seems to be very little difference between the US and Australia in the proportion of university research funded by business, despite the much larger business research and development effort in the US. According to the OECD STI Scoreboard 2013 (page 123), Australia ranked 16 out of 36 countries in terms of business-funded research and development in the higher education and government sectors in 2011, when this is measured as a percentage of the research and development performed in these sectors. The differences between sectors in terms of their research and development intensity and their propensity to use higher education research capabilities are again apparent in the US, with relatively large shares of business funding for US university research coming from two sectors the medical sciences (39 per cent) and engineering (26 per cent). The remainder of business-funded academic research and development can from companies operating in the biological sciences, agricultural sciences, environmental sciences, and other fields. Compared with academic research and development funded by businesses, the academic sector s overall research and development expenditures were less concentrated in the fields of medical sciences and engineering (31% and 15%, respectively, of the $65 billion total). 22 Looking at business-academic linkages more generally, the US data suggest that of the companies estimated to be research active in 2010, almost 18 per cent had engaged with universities through hiring consultants, hosting student interns or postdoctoral fellows in science and engineering, having employees serve as visiting academics or made gifts to universities to support research and development. 23 It is worth noting that: The large-r&d companies reporting [research collaborations with universities] differ from other large- R&D companies in a number of ways [They] are on average larger in terms of employment, sales and R&D expenditures. 24 This again emphasises the importance of size and the relative disadvantage that Australia faces in having a relatively small number of very large firms. Moreover, this conclusion is in accordance with data from the OECD which, in a discussion of firms collaborating on innovation noted that: Collaboration with higher education or public research institutions is mainly an important source of knowledge transfer for large firms. In most countries, these firms are usually two to three times more likely than small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to engage in this type of collaboration. Collaboration is more frequent with other market actors, in particular suppliers and clients. Among large firms, suppliers play a key role as value chains become increasingly integrated 25 The challenge for Australia is to develop strong and effective relationships between universities and business built on a firm understanding of Australian business needs and capabilities, recognising that these reflect the size structure and sectoral composition of Australian business. International comparisons which ignore these realities can be misleading and it is important that Australia build on the potential that exists here rather than try to emulate overseas models that draw on different business structures and potentialities. In doing this, it will be important to forge a broader debate and to widen the focus from research collaboration to encompass the many other ways in which business a d universities can work together to mutual advantage. 21 Note that the US business survey estimates of payments from companies to academia for collaborative research and development or research and development services differ from the higher education survey estimates of academic research funded by the business sector. Reasons for this include definitional problems, the higher education survey including gifts from business and payments to academia from overseas businesses and the foreign operations of US business. See: infbrief/nsf13333/ OECD STI Scoreboard 2013, page 127 page 7

8 Table 1: Australian companies in the World companies ranked by R&D 26 World rank Name Country Industrial sector (ICB-3D) R&D 2012 ( million) R&D 1 year growth (%) R&D 3 years growth (CAGR-3y, %) R&D intensity (%) 151 TELSTRA Australia Technology Hardware & Equipment AUSTRALIA & NEW ZEALAND BANKING Australia Banks NATIONAL AUSTRALIA BANK Australia Banks COMMONWEALTH BANK OF AUSTRALIA Australia Banks CSL Australia Pharmaceuticals & Biotechnology ARRIUM Australia Industrial Metals & Mining COCHLEAR Australia Health Care Equipment & Services AMCOR Australia General Industrials ARISTOCRAT LEISURE Australia Travel & Leisure NUFARM Australia Chemicals COMPUTERSHARE Australia Software & Computer Services ORICA Australia Chemicals BLUESCOPE STEEL Australia Industrial Metals & Mining LINC ENERGY Australia General Retailers TECHNOLOGY ONE Australia Software & Computer Services TOTALS - WORLD Note: this table does not include Resmed, which the Scoreboard lists as having its registered office in the USA. Resmed ranks 782 overall, with its R&D expenditure in 2012 of 91 million and an R&D intensity of The Scoreboard data are drawn from the latest available companies accounts. page 8

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