The US is spending $476 billion on R&D every year, according to data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics. China comes in second with a total expenditure of $371 billion.
EU member states are spending a total of $386 billion, excluding the European Commission's research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020.
Strong spending by the business sector is an underlying factor for success, UNESCO says, as 71.5 per cent of R&D investments in the US come from the private sector. That share is slightly bigger in China, where businesses account for 77.3 per cent of the total R&D spending.