Author: Marcy E. Gallo, Analyst in Science and Technology Policy
The federal government supports research and development (R&D) that is conducted by a wide variety of performers, including federally owned and operated laboratories, universities, private companies, and other research institutions. A special class of research institutions referred to as federally funded research and development centers, or FFRDCs, are owned by the federal government, but operated by contractors, including universities, other non-profit organizations, and industrial firms. FFRDCs are intended to provide federal agencies with R&D capabilities that cannot be effectively met by the federal government or the private sector alone. FFRDCs are required to have a long-term strategic relationship with the federal agency that supports them. This relationship is presumed to convey a number of benefits, including the ability of an FFRDC to recruit and retain scientific and technical expertise; an in-depth knowledge of, and the capability to rapidly respond to, the R&D needs of the federal agency; and the capacity to offer independent and objective scientific and technical advice. Currently, 12 federal agencies sponsor a total of 42 FFRDCs. These FFRDCs provide R&D capabilities in support of federal agency missions in a broad range of areas-from energy and cybersecurity to cancer and astronomy. In FY2014, the federal government spent $10.6 billion or 8.1% of its total R&D expenditures at FFRDCs.