Industrial Research Institute's 3rd Annual R&D Leaderboard: R&D Spending by the Top 1O0 U.S. Technology Investors in 2000

By Armbrecht, F. M. Ross, Jr. | Research-Technology Management, January-February 2002 | Go to article overview

Industrial Research Institute's 3rd Annual R&D Leaderboard: R&D Spending by the Top 1O0 U.S. Technology Investors in 2000


Armbrecht, F. M. Ross, Jr., Research-Technology Management


Total R&D investment by the top 100 firms in the United States climbed from $104.9 billion to $109.6 billion in 2000, slightly outpacing inflation. For some 16 companies, mostly from the fields of electronics and communications, their strong increases thrust them into the top 100 for the year 2000, some for the first time. Companies that fell from the Leaderboard's list were a more eclectic group and included some players from high-flying sectors like pharmaceuticals, medical devices and communications.

Because the mix of companies is somewhat different each year, a second metric is also of interest. R&D spending increased by an average of 11.0 percent for the 100 individual companies that now make up the Leaderboard for 2000. By comparison, the new set of 100 companies for 1999 increased their outlay over 1998 by 7.0 percent.

Another indicator of the strong support for R&D in the year 2000 is that about three-quarters of the top 100 increased their outlays over the previous year compared with about two-thirds in 1999. Only one-third of those decreasing their expenditures in 2000 also did so in 1999.

Although much of the macroeconomic data usually available for this report is not complete, it appears from the 14-percent increase in R&D expenditures by the top 1,000 R&D companies that, once again, R&D levels increased as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product.

The top 100 R&D investors also continued to post strong earnings, up 4 percent from 1999 and, as a percentage of sales, up from 12.1 percent to 12.4 percent in 2000. It will be instructive to follow R&D outlays, as an absolute and as a percentage of sales or trailing earnings, for Leaderboard companies through the downturn that intensified in 2001. It has been demonstrated that those companies viewing R&D as an investment, and thus maintaining a more constant level of support through both good and bad times, outpace those whose support more closely tracks earnings cycles.

R&D as a percentage of Capital Expenditure in 1999 was reported for the first time at 77.7 percent (see RTM, Jan.-Feb. 2001, pp. 22-24). This number fell to 68.6 percent in 2000, indicative of bullish investment in productive capacity.

Fiscal 2000 Data

Data for fiscal year 2000 are reported in the table, next page. The information is from Standard and Poor's Compustat database as of July 31, 2001. Companies covered in the survey are limited to those publicly-held U.S. firms that reported sales of $100 million or more and R&D expenses of at least $2 million. R&D Expenses includes only those dollars spent on company-sponsored research and development. R&D Expenses per Employee is based on the reported number of company employees at year-end. Profits reported in the table are Pretax Income.

One caveat must be offered this year. With the trend toward more merger and acquisition, "Acquired In-Process R&D" (IPR&D) was subtracted out from the S&P Compustat R&D expense data to make the data more meaningful year-to-year. For five companies--ADC Communications, Amazon.Com, Applied Materials, Millennium Pharmaceuticals, and Pfizer--it was not possible to determine from public records whether their >50-percent increase was due to such IPR&D.

The Top 100 R&D Investors
                                                         R&D Expenses

                                               Change    Per Employee
                                                from
                                      2000      1999    2000      2000
Company                               $MM        %       $        Rank

Top 1000 Companies                  145956.5    14.0    12702.7

1.   Ford Motor Co                    6800.0    -4.2    19653.7    56
2.   General Motors Cord              6600.0    -2.9    17098.4    59
3.   Motorola Inc                     4769. … 

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