Field with precision irrigation.

MN Impact: U of M Researchers Look at Ag R&D Spending

June 28, 2017


The amount, orientation, and effectiveness of investments in research and development (R&D) shape our technological futures, but the processes play out over long-periods of time and require long-run perspective that takes into account all-dimensions of food and agriculture productivity.

What has been done

Applied economic researchers at the University were interested in how the geographical distribution of food and agricultural R&D is changing. To track shifts on where R&D spending occurs worldwide, they revised and updated datasets maintained by the University of Minnesota's International Science and Technology Practice and Policy Center. They also pooled data from government and international agencies and private firms. In all, the update took six years, and involved more than 60 collaborators at national and international statistical and scientific agencies.


Their analysis of 50 years of data from across the globe revealed that we are in the midst of a historic transition--the governments of middle-income nations are investing more than those of high-income ones for the first time in modern history. Additionally, the study revealed the majority of food and agricultural R&D is now being done by private firms rather than government institutions and public universities. Today's R&D investment decisions will cast shadows forward to 2050 and beyond, making the trends being uncovered now significant for the future of food production. As population numbers continue to sore, it will be especially important to ensure that R&D advances are shared with low-income countries.