Big shifts in where research and development in food and agriculture is carried out will shape future global food production,
The geographical distribution of food and agricultural research and development (AgR&D) is changing. Our analysis of more than 50 years of data indicates that the governments of middle-income nations are investing more than those of high-income ones for the first time in modern history. The numbers also suggest that, globally, private-sector spending on AgR&D is catching up with public-sector spending. Meanwhile, the gap between spending by high-income and low-income countries is widening.
Investments in R&D are inextricably intertwined with growth in agricultural productivity and food supplies1. But it takes decades2, not months or years, for the consequences of these investments to be fully realized. Today’s R&D investment decisions will cast shadows forward to 2050 and beyond, making the trends we report here especially significant for the future of food production.
To track shifts in where AgR&D occurs worldwide, we revised and updated the various data series on spending maintained by the University of Minnesota’s International Science and Technology Practice and Policy (InSTePP) Center in St Paul. Successive versions of these series have been developed over decades by collating and harmonizing data obtained from many government and international agencies, private firms and unpublished sources, and using statistical approaches developed to infer missing observations3. Our global update took 6 years, and involved direct input from more than 60 collaborators at national and international statistical and scientific agencies.