Research funding is a term generally covering any funding for scientific research, in the areas of both "hard" science and technology, and social science. The term often connotes funding obtained through a competitive process, in which potential research projects are evaluated and only the most promising receive funding. Such processes, which are run by government, corporations or foundations, allocate scarce funds. Total research funding in most developed countries is between 1.5% and 3% of GDP; Sweden is the only country to exceed 4%.
Most research funding comes from two major sources, corporations (through research and development departments) and government (primarily carried out through universities and specialised government agencies). Some small amounts of scientific research are carried out (or funded) by charitable foundations, especially in relation to developing cures for diseases such as cancer, malaria and AIDS.
In the OECD, around two-thirds of research and development in scientific and technical fields is carried out by industry, and 20% and 10% respectively by universities and government, although in poorer countries such as Portugal and Mexico the industry contribution is significantly less. The US government spends more than other countries on military R&D, although the proportion has fallen from around 30% in the 1980s to under 20%. Government funding for medical research amounts to approximately 36% in the U.S. The government funding proportion in certain industries is higher, and it dominates research in social science and humanities. Similarly, with some exceptions (e.g. biotechnology) government provides the bulk of the funds for basic scientific research. In commercial research and development, all but the most research-oriented corporations focus more heavily on near-term commercialisation possibilities than "blue-sky" ideas or technologies (such as nuclear fusion). One of the most famous exceptions is the innovation-favouring environment of the 1970s at Xerox Parc, where various ideas including the computer mouse were developed. Similarly, IBM's research into quantum computing has been going on for some years, and it will likely be some years more before it yields commercialisable technology.
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