Advances in health knowledge and technology have reduced disease burden and improved life expectancies. Public, private, and non-profit sectors investment for health research & development (R&D) hence have been critical to the health gains made to date. Governments, policy-makers, funders and researchers thus need to understand the current health R&D funding landscape to detect mismatch, gaps and ensure that resources are used optimally to improve health. Identifying clear global trends in health R&D expenditure however is challenging due to the large number of funding agencies and the lack of an established, centralised body for tracking international health R&D spending.
We reviewed current literatures to construct an overview of the R&D landscape in health and in general. The current data shows that the United States continued to invest in R&D more than any other country, with US industry spending more than any other sector, followed by the US federal government. However, the US share of global R&D expenditures had actually fallen due to greater increases in the investments of the governments and industries of other countries, which have recognized the importance of R&D to their industrial innovation and competitiveness. Notably there have been significant increases in R&D spending by Chinese, Indian, and other non-Western pharmaceutical firms. Further sustained economic growth in ‘emerging countries’ could therefore lead to a major tectonic shift in the international research landscape, with China as the leading global research dynamo.