Top 10 Medical Device R&D Budgets

We at FierceMedicalDevices present our compilation of the top 10 device companies and their R&D spending levels and priorities for 2011. Considered together, the data offers a telling story: In the face of a sluggish economy barely recovering from its historic collapse in 2008, almost all of the companies made a concerted effort to boost their R&D spending during their 2011 fiscal years.

Their message: It is crucial to invest in the future, no matter what the condition of the global economy.

While it is true that some pursued relatively modest R&D spending hikes, others were far more ambitious. But the trend is interesting when you consider that many pharmaceutical companies have focused on outsourcing their R&D to save money. What's more, the spending increases are all the more noteworthy for companies such as Medtronic ($MDT), which otherwise slashed jobs and reorganized in the face of sluggish sales.

Some companies viewed their R&D mandate as finding ways to improve and expand the use of existing products or update their technology. Others, such as GE Healthcare, engineered a concerted effort to tell the world their R&D spending is targeted toward big ideas (for example, developing next-generation molecular diagnostics to spot diseases such as Alzheimer's more quickly). Others, like Covidien ($COV), grew their R&D spending, in part, by default, after completing a shopping spree of new companies with promising device or medical instrument technologies.

Some R&D investment also went global. Covidien took this route in the fall by announcing plans for a Shanghai R&D center to develop medical device technologies and surgical tools for China and other emerging markets. It's not quite outsourcing in the traditional sense, but it does warrant closer watching. Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) also took a similar route.

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-- Mark Hollmer (email | Twitter) and Liz Jones Hollis (email | Twitter), editors-at-large