Aerospace and defense-based technologies have been well-recognized for utilizing the most leading-edge technologies to go faster, higher, more efficiently and
safer than the products developed in previous generations.
Many of these technologies have been the beneficiaries of
defense-based applications which makes them no less innovative. And with nearly $60 billion in dedicated federal R&D
funding (about half of the government’s total R&D budget),
the U.S. Dept. of Defense (DOD) invests more in the development of aerospace and defense-related technologies than all
but a handful of countries do in their entirety.
Industries build on their government’s R&D investments
to support those products and to create commercial spin-offs. According to R&D Magazine’s global funding survey, the
global industrial aerospace/defense R&D sector is expected
to decline slightly in 2017 by -0.3 to $29.8 billion with the
U.S. portion of that actually increasing 1.3% to $15.1 billion.
However, even this level of R&D funding limits the development of advanced systems and components, according to a
recent R&D Magazine survey focused on the aerospace/defense
R&D sector. System complexity, regulations and safety are
also strong limitations, but funding is the top limitation. The
systems and components in this sector push state-of-the-art by
themselves as products, but the materials they are made of,
the processes they require to be fabricated, and the intensity
of the testing they are required to go through to be validated
are all complex and costly but push state-of-the-art R&D
development of systems in other industrial sectors.
Early indications from the President-elect Donald Trump
administration are that federal funding of DOD R&D, which
is currently scheduled to increase about 2.1% in the FY2017
R&D budget, may get a slight increase. Similar messages for
federal support of industrial R&D in the aerospace/defense
sector reveal that this particular funding may decline slightly.
Major U.S. industrial aerospace/defense suppliers, such as
Boeing, Lockheed Martin, United Technologies, Raytheon,
Northrop Grumman and others, are being relatively conservative in their current budgeting for R&D efforts especially
in 2017 due to the new administration’s pending restrictions
on system budget overruns. Newer suppliers, such as SpaceX
and Orbital ATK, are continuing their modest R&D investments to push their acceptance as lower cost suppliers of
aerospace systems and components.
Automation and autonomous systems are seeing the
greatest innovation growth in the industrial aerospace/de-
fense sector. The closely interrelated software and
artificial intelligence (AI) areas are also expected to
see substantial R&D growth to support the overall
cost and technology goals for this sector. Numerous
unmanned, autonomous aircraft and vehicle systems
dedicated to aerospace/defense applications are seeing
the integration of software, AI and automation tech-
nologies for existing and future systems.
Foreign suppliers of aerospace/defense systems and
components, including China, India and Russia, are
continuing their strong investments in R&D (5% to
10% growth) to ensure long-term growth as the lead-
ing suppliers in this market. China in particular is in-
tent on becoming the sole supplier of military aircraft,
engines and subsystems for potential future export
trade. Russia is supporting its aerospace/defense R&D
for rebuilding and support its own internal infrastruc-
ture. India is supporting its aerospace/defense R&D to
create a strong dedicated aerospace/defense industry,
while continuing to purchase state-of-the-art systems
and technology from Russia and the U.S. 2015 Global 2015 U.S. 2016 Global 2016 U.S. 2017 Global 2017 U.S.
Automation and autonomous
systems are seeing the greatest
innovation growth in the industrial