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2020 R&D Index

Illinois’ Capacity for Innovation and Economic Growth

Why R&D Matters

Research and development (R&D) is the lifeblood of innovation. Universities, businesses, and government all use R&D to create new technologies and services that create jobs and drive economic growth.

University research has been a core mission of Illinois’ leading universities since their founding. Research at universities in the state has led to the creation of technologies such as the LED, graphical web browser, MRI, modern nuclear energy, cloud computing, countless modern medicines and cancer treatments, and many, many more. The past decade has seen Illinois’ universities place an increased emphasis on commercializing discoveries made through university research. This emphasis has led Illinois’ universities to become hubs of economic development through the creation and commercialization of new technologies.

For businesses, R&D is vital to competitiveness as companies look to grow their share of increasingly globalized markets. R&D fuels companies to improve existing products; discover and develop new products; or create more efficient processes. Business R&D growth is integral to Illinois’ economy, allowing companies in the state to remain ahead of the technology curve and create strong jobs.

Lastly, research conducted at federally financed R&D centers (FFRDCs) keeps the country on the leading edge of discovery and innovation. Illinois’ two national labs, Argonne and Fermi, have a long history of discovery in key areas like advanced materials, defense, energy, supercomputing, and many more. Illinois’ federal labs are also working to make their facilities and technologies accessible to businesses through user facilities, technology transfer, and incubator programs—driving economic impact. Together, R&D activity at universities, businesses, and federal labs propel Illinois’ innovation ecosystem and economy forward.

Presentation slides can be found here.

Key Findings

Total R&D Activity

  • Total R&D activity across businesses, universities, and federal labs in Illinois reached $18.1 billion in 2017, an increase of more than $600 million over 2016.
  • Despite the uptick in 2017, total R&D activity in Illinois has grown more slowly than the
    national average since 2013 (1.8 percent annually vs. 4.7 percent). Illinois ranks 9th nationally in total R&D activity, down from 8th in 2013.

Business R&D

  • By R&D input, the state ranks 8th by business R&D expenditures and 7th by science &
    engineering employment. By output, the state ranks 7th in patents issued to businesses
    and 5th in private industry output.
  • Business R&D expenditures reached $14.4 billion in 2017. Since 2013, business R&D
    expenditures have grown by 2.4 percent annually, significantly slower than national growth of 5.5 percent over the same period.
  • Illinois businesses conducted nearly $4.5 billion in pharmaceutical R&D in 2017—nearly
    three times as much as in any other industry. Though the industry remains among the national leaders (5th nationally), growth in pharmaceutical R&D has grown more slowly in Illinois than nationally (0.4 percent annual growth vs. 3.9 percent).
  • Illinois is a national leader in business R&D in machinery, finance & insurance, and food. In 2017, businesses in the state conducted $1.7 billion in machinery R&D (2nd nationally),
    $860 million in finance & insurance R&D (3rd nationally), and $770 million in food R&D (2nd nationally).
  • Business R&D in Illinois led to 7,179 patents in 2019, 7th most among states nationally.
    Patents issued to Illinois businesses have risen by 1.5 percent annually since 2015, slower than national growth of 3.4 percent.

University-Industry Collaboration

  • Illinois ranks 8th nationally in university research funded by businesses, with nearly $172 million in funding in 2018. Universities and businesses in the state also shared funding from 29 grants in 2018, 6th most nationally.
  • Illinois ranks 8th nationally in patents co-assigned to universities and businesses, with 62 such patents awarded in 2019. Universities and businesses in the state also co-authored 284 publications in 2019, 10th most nationally.

University Research

  • By research input, the state ranks 10th in university research funding; 7th by research
    personnel; and 6th by science & engineering research space. By research output, the
    state ranks 6th in science & engineering publications; 9th in patents; and 4th in licensing income.
  • University research funding in Illinois reached $2.57 billion in 2018. Since 2014, funding in Illinois has grown by 2.5 percent annually, slower than national annual growth of 4.2 percent.
  • By field, university research funding is led by life sciences, with $1.52 billion in 2018 (the
    state ranks 8th nationally). Other leading fields include engineering (11th), physical sciences (8th), and computer & information sciences (8th).
  • Nationally, most university research funding comes from federal agencies. However, federal funding accounts for a significantly larger share in Illinois (58.1 percent vs. 52.9 percent). Compared to the national average, Illinois receives a significantly smaller share of funding from state and local governments (1.8 percent vs. 5.4 percent).
  • Universities in the state were issued 255 patents in 2018, up from 234 in 2014. However,
    university patent creation in Illinois has grown more slowly than the national average (2.2
    percent annually vs. 4.7 percent).

Federal Labs

  • R&D activity at both of Illinois’ federal research labs increased in 2018—with Argonne
    increasing activity by more than $50 million between 2017 and 2018, while R&D at Fermilab grew by around $8 million.
  • Thanks to its many user facilities, Argonne is among the most active federal labs nationwide for business R&D partnerships. Around 3 percent of Argonne’s R&D activity is funded by businesses, compared with around 1 percent for all federal labs.

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2022 - R&D Index

Illinois' R&D Landscape and How COVID-19 Impacted Innovation

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2020- R&D Index

Illinois' Capacity for Innovation & Economic Growth

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2019 - R&D Index

Illinois' R&D Landscape & Path Forward

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2018 - R&D Index

R&D growth struggles to match peer states, but machinery, finance & insurance among bright spots.

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2017 - R&D Index

New analysis finds slow R&D growth in Illinois, despite key academic and business areas of strength.

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2015 - R&D Index

Analysis finds alignment between federal funding for academic science and technology R&D, research quality, and output in Illinois.

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2014 - R&D Index

R&D expenditures by Illinois universities hold steady

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2013 - R&D Index

Capital and infrastructure for innovation

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