Competitive grants—grants centered around a specific research project and distinct from block grants—are one of the U.S. government’s key policy levers to drive technological innovation, spur exploratory scientific research, and advance U.S. technological leadership. This data brief analyzes trends in how U.S. government agencies are using grants to foster AI research and assesses how the U.S. government’s approach to funding AI research differs from other areas of research. With U.S. policymakers increasingly focused on AI innovation, this data brief aims to provide relevant stakeholders with an informational resource about U.S. government grants in AI to inform ongoing debates and policy decisions.
Our analysis uses data sourced from Dimensions, an inter-linked research information system provided by Digital Science, and Crunchbase to analyze U.S. government grants awarded to both industry and academic recipients between 2017 and May 2023.1 We examined U.S. government grant making, generally, and trends in AI grants. Our findings are as follows:
U.S. Government Grant Trends
- The majority of U.S. government grants were awarded to academia. Between 2017 and May 2023, U.S. government agencies awarded roughly 76 percent of all grants to academic recipients, while industry recipients received only about 9 percent.
- Departments and agencies within the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) awarded more grants to industry than other U.S. government agencies. Seven of the top 10 agencies awarding the highest percentage of the agency’s grants to industry are part of the DOD.
- Across all fields of research of U.S. government grants, the most common field of research awarded to industry recipients was AI. Twenty-three percent of U.S. government grants awarded to industry were for AI research.
AI Grant Trends
- The number of AI grants awarded per year remained relatively steady over the last five years and consistently accounted for roughly 9 percent of all U.S. government grants.
- The Departments of the Navy, Air Force, and Army appeared to prioritize the funding of AI research through grants relative to other funding agencies. Roughly one fourth of each of the three departments’ grants were for AI research.
- AI grants were often awarded to recipients who had already received a grant in the past. Repeat recipients accounted for 61 percent of AI grant recipients between 2017 and May 2023, while 39 percent of recipients were one-time recipients.
- Industry played an outsized role in conducting AI research funded by the U.S. government compared to the role industry played across all fields of research. Industry recipients received 23 percent of all AI grants, which was roughly four times the percentage of grants industry received across all other fields of research combined.
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- http://www.dimensions.ai, pulled on May 19th, 2023.