Research and development (R&D) is the lifeblood of innovation. Universities, corporations, state and federal agencies, laboratories, and nonprofits all utilize R&D to advance scientific discovery and generate innovation that creates jobs and improves quality of life. This issue of the Illinois Innovation Index, sponsored by Wellspring, comes at a pivotal moment for R&D in the United States and underlines the special place that Chicago holds as one of the most innovative cities in the country. As denizens of the state, we're proud to be a part of Illinos' innovation ecosystem.
Illinois is one of the most active states for R&D in the nation, ranking eighth in overall R&D, academic R&D, and business R&D. However, despite the state’s high volume of activity, the R&D landscape in Illinois has grown less quickly than in many of its peer states.
Overall R&D in Illinois grew by just 0.2 percent from 2010 to 2014, compared with 4.0 percent growth nationally. This lack of growth was due in large part to the relative stagnation of business R&D in the state, which grew by just 0.3 percent annually during that period, compared with 5.1 percent annual business R&D growth nationally.
Illinois’ strongest academic disciplines for R&D match many of the state’s top business industries, including agriculture, medical sciences, and chemistry. Academic research in computer science is also a strength in Illinois. This is consistent with the state’s production of computer science talent, where Illinois is a national leader.
The state’s two national labs, Argonne and Fermilab, boost the state’s R&D activity by more than $1 billion annually while also contributing critical resources to, and collaborating with, the business and academic R&D communities.
Despite slow growth for business R&D compared to peer states, activity in pharmaceuticals, machine manufacturing, finance & insurance, and food remain significant strengths for Illinois’ business sector.
Illinois ranks seventh nationally in patent production, with more than 5,000 patents awarded each year. Several of the nation’s largest patent holders are also headquartered in Illinois, including Boeing, Caterpillar, Deere & Company, Illinois Tool Works, and Motorola Solutions.
Illinois is the sixth largest producer of science, health, and engineering academic articles nationally. Academic research funding yields a high rate of return in Illinois, with the state producing more academic articles per $1 million in funding, compared with the national average.
Moving forward, the state must ensure stable funding to its public universities, thus improving their ability to attract research talent and investment. Illinois should also make permanent its business R&D tax credit, which has sunset four times in the past 14 years, limiting competitiveness compared with many peer states.