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Top 50 global pharmaceutical and biotech companies by R&D intensity in 2019

The bio-/pharmaceutical industry is one of the most research-driven in the world, and its high R&D intensity has long been recognized. This list consists of many smaller companies that have high research costs but low sales revenues.

What is R&D intensity?

R&D intensity is calculated by taking a company’s R&D expenditure and dividing that figure by its sales. For smaller companies, the investment can be a very high proportion of its sales. However, established larger companies can recoup their R&D investment through sales income. In 2019, Swiss company Novartis spent around 9.4 billion U.S. dollars on R&D and had net sales of 47.4 billion U.S. dollars. This resulted in an R&D intensity for the year of around 19.8 percent.

R&D holds the key

Discovering innovative, life-changing medicines can require substantial investment. In 2019, the global pharmaceutical industry spent approximately 186 billion U.S. dollars on R&D, and forecasts predict an annual expenditure of around 200 billion U.S. dollars by 2022. All of the big pharma companies are expected to continue investing significant amounts on R&D projects in 2024.

World's top 50 pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies based on R&D intensity in 2019*

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Release date

December 2020



Survey time period


Supplementary notes

* R&D intensity = R&D expenditures divided by sales.

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Statistics on "Medical biotech industry"

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