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Israel outruns South Korea, becomes world's most research intensive economy

Sneha Kulkarni | Feb 13, 2017 | 2,899 views
Israel outruns South Korea, becomes world’s most research intensive economy

On 7 February, the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released data on the investments made by the OECD countries in research and development (R&D) in the year 2015. According to the report, Israel invested 4.25% of its gross domestic product (GDP) in R&D, which is the highest among all the countries in the world.

Until now South Korea held the top spot when it came to GDP investment in science and research. However, in 2016, it invested only 4.23%, which is marginally less than Israel. What helped Israel’s growth is the country’s government program called “Yozma” (which in Hebrew means “initiative”). This program attracted foreign investors and is according to OECD “the most successful and original programme in Israel’s relatively long history of innovation policy.”

South Korea, nonetheless, continues to lead when it comes to investing in basic research. OECD defines basic research as “research to obtain new knowledge without an immediately known application” and South Korea devotes 0.73% towards it compared to Israel’s 0.39%. It plans to increase this investment to 5% in 2017.

The OECD report also states that China, having increased its R&D expenditure from less than 1% in 2000 to 2.1% in 2015, is emerging as a strong economy. The U.S. continues to be a major player as its R&D expenditure share among the OECD countries amounts to nearly 40%. Another trend that the report highlights is that the balance between government- and industry-financed R&D is undergoing a shift. While the investment financed by the industry is picking up (61% in 2015), government-funded R&D is seeing a drop (from 31% to 27%).

Recommended reading:

Korea: An emerging Asian superpower in science, technology, and innovation

Interview with Dr. Sun Huh: Current challenges of the scientific publishing community in Korea

Interview with Dr. Sun Huh: Vital resources and tips for science editors of Korean journals


Israel edges out South Korea for top spot in research investment

How Israel is leading the world in R&D investment

Israel invests more in R&D per capita than any other country, study shows


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