According to China’s National Bureau of Statistics, enterprise R&D investment has accounted for more than 76% of China’s R&D investment in 2020 and is increasing at an annual rate of 10%. Enterprises have become the main contributor of China’s technological innovation.
Based on the Scopus, the largest abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed literature, SciVal, an online platform offering access to the research performance of global research institutions, and LexisNexis PatentSight, a patent analytics platform, it is possible to compare the situation and trend of R&D output of Chinese and US Internet companies from 2016 to 2021.
Academic paper output
According to SciVal, the scientific research output of Chinese and US companies can represent the research level of global Internet companies. In terms of the number of papers produced, the U.S. is in the absolute lead, both in terms of the total number of publications and the comparison of individual enterprises. In terms of the total number of publications, the number of papers published in 2016-2021 by US top Internet enterprises (27,458) is nearly four times that of similar enterprises in China (7,113), and the number of authors involved in the publication of papers (20,019) is more than three times that of China (6,192).
From the perspective of individual companies, Microsoft has the most published papers in the U.S. (10,978), while Alibaba has the most published papers in China (2,786); Alphabet has the most published authors in the U.S. (7,290), while Alibaba has the most published authors in China (2,900).
There is still a significant gap between Chinese companies and their U.S. counterparts in terms of academic output and the number of employees involved in academic activities. However, it is worth noting that Chinese companies are showing strong growth in academic output; the average annual growth rate of academic output for the four Chinese Internet companies with Scopus-accepted papers is 62.31%, more than four times the average annual growth rate of 14.96% for similar U.S. companies. Moreover, many U.S. companies have experienced negative growth in paper output, such as Microsoft and Adobe.
Influence of academic papers
In terms of the influence of published journals, 10 leading Internet companies in the US published more than 30% of their papers in the top 10% of journals in their fields from 2016-2021, while only three Chinese companies (Alibaba, Tencent, and Baidu) have similar performance in this regard.
Fortunately, not only is the output of Chinese companies growing rapidly, higher than the global average for similar companies, but the percentage of Chinese Internet leaders publishing in the top 10% of journals in their fields is also growing rapidly, with three companies (Alibaba, Tencent, and Baidu) having published more than 50% of their annual papers in the top 10% of journals in their fields by 2021, including Tencent, which has reached 59.6%. Chinese Internet companies have demonstrated strong innovative dynamism and increasingly significant academic influence.
The U.S. leadership is also significant in terms of quality indicators of research output, including citations. In terms of citations, the average number of citations for the top US Internet companies from 2016-2021 (65,943.42) is more than three times that of Chinese companies (20,660); in terms of individual companies, Alphabet, the most cited company in the US (312,563), is nine times that of its Chinese counterpart Tencent (34,492).
In terms of average citations per article, the average number of citations per article for the top U.S. Internet companies (19.05) is nearly twice that of Chinese companies (10.1), and the highest average number of citations per article for Chinese companies (Baidu) is even lower (14.7) than the average number of citations per article for the top U.S. Internet companies (19.05); in terms of individual companies, the highest average number of citations per article for U.S. companies is Meta (43.6) is nearly three times higher than Baidu (14.7).
In terms of the influence of papers in the field, using the FWCI index, an indicator to measure how well cited a publication is compared to similar publications, the average FWCI value of papers published by Chinese companies during the past six years was 2.6, compared with 3.12 in the U.S., and there was a certain gap with similar companies in the U.S. on the whole.
Based on these indicators, U.S. Internet leaders are still significantly ahead of Chinese Internet leaders.
Although the overall influence of academic papers of Chinese Internet companies is different from that of their U.S. counterparts, there are some outstanding scientific performances in their main research field – computer science. For example, in the research areas listed as below, the FWCI indices of the output papers of Chinese Internet head companies all exceed 8, which is much higher than the global research papers on similar topics.
Patent quantity, quality, and influence
For a long time, leading Internet companies have been seizing market opportunities and building competitive advantages through R&D innovation and patent layout. Chinese Internet companies also stand out in terms of the number of patents obtained and the quality of their patents. Among the top 10 global Internet enterprises in terms of the number of patents, the top 4 are all Chinese Internet enterprises.
The market influence of patents held by U.S. companies generally exceeds that of Chinese companies, while the market influence of Tencent, Alibaba, Baidu, etc., which are among the top Chinese companies in terms of the number of patents held, is in a lower position.
The top 10 Internet companies in the world in terms of patent technology influence are Uber, Twitter, NetEase, Apple, Tencent, Baidu, Meituan, Alphabet, Xiaomi, and Electronic Arts.
Among the papers published in 2015-2020, only 104 papers from Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu were cited by international patents, but 1,171 papers from Microsoft, Alphabet and Meta were cited by international patents; a total of 278 international patents cited the papers published by Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu in 2015-2020, but 1,171 papers from Microsoft, Alphabet and Meta were cited by international patents. A total of 278 international patents cited papers published by Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu in 2015-2020, while 6,072 international patents cited papers published by Microsoft, Alphabet and Meta in 2015-2020. This indicates that there is still a large gap between the industrial influence of the academic output of Chinese Internet companies and that of the leading international U.S. companies.
However, it is also important to see that many of the academic papers of Chinese Internet companies are being cited by many internationally renowned companies. Taking the international patents retrieved in 2021 as an example, the international patent applicants or owners who cited the scientific papers of Chinese Internet head enterprises mainly include Apple, Microsoft, and Bertec in the United States, as well as Naver in South Korea and Honda in Japan, and they focus on the fields of intelligent digital assistance, convolutional neural network and scene classification prediction, etc. This shows that the international influence of Chinese Internet companies is also increasing.
Innovation is the cornerstone of sustainable development, and global Internet headquarter companies are dominated by China and the United States. Chinese Internet companies, as the main promoters of the digital economy and the supporting force of digital technology innovation, are leading the technology revolution worldwide.
(Source: CAS, news.ifeng.com)