The share of federal R&D monies awarded for basic research in physical sciences declined from 11.4 percent of science spending in 2002 to 10.6 percent in 2011. The lion’s share of federal funds for basic research is still allocated to the life sciences, at 70.9 percent of science R&D expenditures during 2011; federal investment in this area is at an all-time high.

Aging populations in the U.S. and other rich nations as well as persistent advancements in medicine will certainly continue to incentivize high levels of federal investment in life science research. But a modestly stronger federal investment in physical science will likely benefit capital goods industries, a segment of manufacturing in which the U.S. is relatively competitive. Public expenditures on basic physical science research may be further motivated by global supply challenges for energy and non-energy raw material inputs.

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