Tech companies claimed the top five spots in the U.S. for research and development spending again last year, investing a combined total of $76 billion. Amazon was at the top of the list, spending $22.6 billion in 2017, 41 percent more than in 2016 (when it also topped the list).
Amazon has poured resources into AWS, Alexa and technologies like computer vision to support ambitious projects such as the Amazon Go cashierless store of the future. Amazon has also recently been the target of President Trump’s Twitter attacks accusing the company of not paying its share of taxes and for exploiting the U.S. Postal Service.
R&D spending is important not only as it contributes to a company’s own innovation and dominance, but also for its contribution to national productivity, accounting for about 3 percent of the GDP.
Productivity — which in addition to R&D includes other measures like wages and hours worked — has remained mysteriously slow the last few years despite low unemployment and higher profits from major U.S. companies.
Amazon is followed in R&D spending by Alphabet, Intel, Microsoft and Apple.
Facebook rose from 13th place in 2016 to ninth in 2017 as it increased R&D spending 32 percent to $7.8 billion. Part of the spending jump could likely be attributed to Facebook’s Building 8, the company’s secretive hardware research lab.