Research and Experimental Development, Higher Education Organisations, Australia

Latest release

Contains data on expenditure and human resources devoted to research and development (R&D) carried out by higher education organisations in Australia

Reference period

Key statistics

  • Expenditure on Research and Experimental Development (R&D) performed by Australian higher education organisations during the 2020 calendar year was $12,668 million.
  • Higher Education Expenditure on R&D (HERD) as a proportion of GDP decreased from 0.62% in 2018 to 0.61% in 2020.  


Changes to Fields of Research and Socio-Economic Objectives

For the first time, Fields of Research (FoR) data presented in this issue have been collected and compiled based on the Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC), 2020. Previous releases of this issue used the Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC), 2008.

Socio-Economic Objectives (SEO) data were not collected in 2020. This was part of the ABS commitment to reduce the load on data providers during the COVID pandemic. Re-instating the collection of SEO data for the 2022 HERD is currently under review.

Higher education resources devoted to R&D

Higher Education resources devoted to R&D
Expenditure on R&D       
 Current Prices$m9,61010,14510,87812,15812,668
 Chain Volume Measures (a)$m11,67011,71812,06612,84912,668
Human resources devoted to R&D PYE74,66978,03879,00881,71781,090

a. The reference year for chain volume measures is 2020. Refer to the Chain volume measures section of the Methodology page for details.

Compared to 2018, Higher Education Expenditure on R&D (HERD) increased by 4% in current price terms and decreased by 1% in chain volume terms.

Subsequent expenditure figures and supporting commentary relate to current price terms.

Higher education expenditure on R&D (HERD)

Type of expenditure

  • In 2020, HERD comprised of $11,941 million (94%) in Current expenditure and $727 million (6%) in Capital expenditure. In comparison, Current expenditure contributed $11,165 million (92%) and Capital expenditure $992 million (8%) to HERD in 2018.
  • Between 2018 and 2020, Capital expenditure - Land, buildings and other structures decreased the most, down $243 million (34%) to $473 million, while Current expenditure - Labour costs recorded the largest dollar increase, up $467 million (9%) to $5,741 million.


Source of funds

  • With the exception of the General university funds, all R&D expenditure by source of funds categories recorded an increase from 2018.
  1. Other Australian source of funds data not included.
  2. Commonwealth and Non-Commonwealth schemes.
  3. Other Commonwealth Government funding.


Location of expenditure relates to the main campus or head office location of the reporting institution, apart from the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA). Please refer to the Methodology page for further information.

  • All states and territories, except Western Australia and Tasmania recorded an increase in R&D expenditure from 2018, with New South Wales recording the largest dollar increase, up $188 million (5%).

HERD and Gross State Product (GSP)

  • Western Australia recorded the largest movement in HERD as a proportion of GSP, decreasing 0.1% from 2018.
HERD, by location of expenditure - proportion of GSP(a)
 NSW (%)Vic. (%)Qld (%)SA (%)WA (%)Tas. (%)NT (%)ACT (%)

a. Refer to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and Gross State Product (GSP) section of the Methodology page for details.

Type of Activity

Type of Activity (ToA) classification enables R&D activity to be categorised according to the type of research effort.  Refer to Glossary section of the Methodology page for more detail on the four Types of Activity classifications: Pure Basic Research, Strategic Basic Research, Applied Research and Experimental Development.

  • In comparison to 2018, R&D expenditure classified as Applied research increased by 14% ($824 million), followed by Strategic basic research up 4% ($79 million). Pure basic research recorded a decrease over the same period, down 11% ($314 million) followed by Experimental development, down 6% ($80 million).

Fields of Research

Fields of Research (FoR) classifies R&D expenditure based on the area of knowledge and methodology used in the R&D.

Higher education human resources devoted to R&D

  • Australian higher education institutions devoted a total of 81,090 person years of effort (PYE) to R&D, a decrease of 627 PYE (1%) from 2018.
  • Postgraduate students recorded the largest movement from 2018, down 1,392 PYE (3%), while both Academic staff and Other staff both recorded increases, up 198 PYE (1%) and 568 PYE (5%).

Data downloads

Data files

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 8111.0.

Back to top of the page