Major PV manufacturers spent around US$422 million in 2013 on R&D activities, down 9% from 2012, according to the annual R&D spending analysis undertaken by PV Tech.

As a consequence of the continued downturn in the PV industry in 2013, the number of employees designated in R&D activities also declined but at a higher rate than the decline in spending. 

In the latest report, staffing levels were approximately 2,911, a 16.5% decline from 2012, nearly double the reduction in spending, in percentage terms. 

It would seem that major c-Si module producers R&D spending actually peaked in 2011, during a major capacity expansion phase. Spending reached around US$369 million in 2011, but the spending levels in 2013 were in line with spending levels in 2010.

According to PV Tech’s analysis four c-Si module producers (SunPower, SolarWorld, ReneSola and Yingli Green) had R&D spending above US$45 million, with ReneSola and Yingli Green actually increasing spending in 2013, compared to the previous year. 

However, market leader Yingli Green was only ranked in sixth position for R&D spending in 2012 and fourth in 2013, and while long-term spending laggard, JinkoSolar, may have increased its market position last year, it remains the lowest R&D spender of the group of companies covered in the PV Tech analysis. 

The booming PV industry in 2014 should lead to higher R&D spending in 2015, probably in line with the next major capacity expansion phase. However, capital spending in 2014 has remained constrained and suggests the same fate for R&D spending in 2014. 

The full analysis of R&D spending in 2013 can be viewed here.