The two industries that spend the most on R&D globally are computing & electronics and healthcare, with each accounting for just over 20 percent of global R&D expenditure. The automotive, software and broader industrial sectors are also heavy investors. Although all of these sectors have a global presence, different regions outspend each other in different areas: while North America spends the most on R&D for software, computing, aerospace, and healthcare, Europe and Japan have a larger presence in the automotive, chemicals, and energy sectors. R&D-intensive industries also have differing levels of importance to different economies, with high-intensity R&D exports being more central to European and Asian economies than in other regions.
The largest source of R&D investment is the private sector, with the list of the largest corporate R&D spenders being comprised of global household names. Amazon topped this list in 2018, investing over 22 billion U.S. dollars in R&D. Some other companies to spend over 10 billion in that year included Google, Volkswagen, Samsung, Microsoft, and Apple. The presence of many major technology companies on this list is a result not only of their need to create new consumer products, but also because many of these companies are at the cutting edge of developing future, high-growth technologies like artificial intelligence. Corporate investment in healthcare R&D is also expected to remain high into the near future, despite this industry seeing a decrease in return on investment over recent years.
Of course, any market-based projection made prior to the global COVID-19 pandemic will need to be revised once economists have a better picture of the resulting economic damage. Despite this, there is reason to think that R&D investment may weather this crisis better than other many economic activities, at least in some sectors. Key R&D markets such as healthcare and computing will be relied upon to in global efforts to deal with the crisis: pharmaceutical R&D is necessary to develop a vaccine, while investment in computing and software may result from an extended need to reduce social contact. In addition, many who work in R&D report that historically their spending is not impacted by stock market changes - although whether this remains the case through a major economic downturn remains to be seen.