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Hear from our staff of foreign direct investment (FDI) experts to learn more about our programs, services, data, and research.

Sit Down with SelectUSA


SelectUSA and Bureau van Dijk, a Moody’s Analytics company

The United States’ strong intellectual property protections and vibrant domestic market are a critical driver of inbound foreign direct investment (FDI). SelectUSA, along with Bureau van Dijk, a Moody’s Analytics company, will publish a report during the SelectUSA Summit  on June 28th examining this relationship.

Using data provided by Bureau van Dijk’s Orbis Crossborder Investment and Orbis Intellectual Property, the authors determined that the United States has consistently been among the top destinations for patent filings by innovative firms. The most recent data shows the United States has become the global leader for patent filings. Perhaps more impressively, the authors determined the average value of a U.S. patent is nearly 1.8 times the value of the average patent filed outside the U.S.

These results are likely in part due to the United States’ strong intellectual property rights regime, and its robust domestic market. When companies are confident their intellectual capital will be protected in a specific market, they are more likely to file for patent protections there. The value of these patents is also likely to increase.

Companies file millions of patents each year. Where they choose to file these patents reflect where they may want to do business and their confidence in that location’s intellectual property protections. In 2018, the United States captured 308,283 patent filings from the top 100 innovative multinationals, ahead of Japan (306,468 filings), China (190,045 filings), and the European Patent Office (138,816 filings). At the same time, the average value of a single U.S. patent is $136,590, nearly 1.8 times larger than the average patent value outside the U.S. These differentials are likely due to a combination of U.S. advantages in specific technologies, high quality patent examination standards, successful track record for rights enforcement, historical success in patent commercialization, and the United States’ position as a key market.

Innovative multinationals who file a large number of patents worldwide tend to make physical investments in the United States. Globally, the United States is the top destination for cross border FDI projects initiated by these companies, receiving 11% of the investment projects initiated by the top 1,000 most innovative multinationals.

Western Europe is the top source of innovative investments in the United States. Over 50% of the top 100 innovative companies in the United States are based in Western Europe. Within Western Europe itself, Germany is the largest source market, home to 19% of the top 100 innovative multinationals. While France and Switzerland follow with a 10% share each.

By number of projects, the automobile manufacturing industry was the top recipient sector from 2013 to 2018. This industry, which includes areas like electric vehicles and self-driving technologies, received a total of 164 investments from the top 100 innovative firms. The technology industry followed behind with 102 total investments. This included companies involved in data processing, hosting, computer systems design, and custom computer programing services.

These investors have an outsized impact on the U.S. innovation economy. According to the latest available US Bureau of Economic Analysis  data, while FDI accounts for 6% of total private sector employment and 7% of private U.S. business sector value added, it also accounts for nearly 16% of U.S. business research and development.

There are many reasons why firms may establish a presence in the United States. From deep capital markets to a well-educated labor force, the U.S. market offers significant opportunities for foreign investors. Its robust intellectual property protections and innovative domestic market are also factors helping drive investment and positioning the United States as the top destination for foreign direct investment.


Alexander Tippett, International Trade Specialist, SelectUSA 

On May 15th to 16th, the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council (TTC) held its second in-person meeting in Paris, France. The TTC is intended to coordinate the U.S. and EU policy response to challenges like climate change, the need for resilient supply chains, and growing economic and technological competition. This blog offers a sketch of one of the transatlantic relationship’s economic pillars, foreign direct investment (FDI), and the role FDI can play in addressing some of these strategic challenges.

Bilateral investment flows between Europe and the United States have a long history. During the 18th and 19th centuries, European investors helped underwrite U.S. infrastructure and industrial expansion. During the first World War, the U.S. became a net creditor, financing the European war effort and post-war reconstruction. Mutual investment skyrocketed after the Second World War as U.S. firms expanded their global footprint and, eventually, revitalized European firms looked to invest in the U.S. market. Since then, mutual investments have only grown. In 2020, the total stock of U.S. FDI in Europe was approximately $3.7 trillion, roughly 29 times the $123 billion the U.S. has invested in China. European investment stock in the U.S. reached $2.5 trillion in 2020, 54 percent of all international investment in the United States.  In terms of historical stock, Europe and the United States are each other’s top partners for inbound and outbound FDI. 

Both the United States and Europe benefit substantially from these investment ties. American firms support the European technology sector. For instance, Intel recently announced its it is committing approximately $36.3 billion towards European semiconductor manufacturing. U.S. firms are also responsible for more than half of the long-term renewable energy purchase agreements signed in Europe since 2007, providing valuable support for the European clean energy sector. 

European FDI in the U.S. provides similar benefits. In 2019, European affiliates employed 4.9 million people in the United States and invested $47.7 billion in research and development. European firms are particularly dominant in manufacturing, accounting for 63 percent of that sector’s $1.9 trillion in FDI stock. European firms have also helped grow U.S. renewable energy. European companies were responsible for $66.3 billion of the $83.1 billion in renewable energy projects announced by foreign firms between 2011 and 2021. European firms also bolster the U.S. semiconductor sector: German and Italian firms recently announced new manufacturing plants while ASM International, a Dutch maker of equipment used for semiconductor manufacturing, is planning a U.S. expansion.  

SelectUSA works to facilitate these greenfield investment flows. In the first two quarters of federal fiscal year 2022 alone, SelectUSA supported more than $2 billion in client-verified investment from European countries, supporting or preserving 3,274 U.S. jobs. In those first two fiscal quarters, among SelectUSA clients who are European Union members, Germany has been the largest investor, contributing $320 million to U.S. investment, followed by Ireland at $156 million. In the previous fiscal year, Austria led among EU member states with $1.1 billion invested. These investments have touched on everything from renewable energy and robotics to sensors used in semiconductor production. 

Going forward, we expect that FDI will play an important role as the TTC looks to strengthen supply chains, bolster green energy production, and preserve U.S. and European technological and industrial competitiveness. FDI, particularly if it is supported and channeled by the TTC’s efforts to coordinate transatlantic regulatory and economic policy, can help address these challenges. SelectUSA, as the federal government program tasked with promoting inbound FDI and strengthening U.S. competitiveness, will continue to facilitate investment in the U.S. and raise awareness about the critical role in plays in strengthening the U.S. economy.   


A Look at Gender Equity in Foreign Direct Investment

Alexander Tippett is an International Trade Specialist at SelectUSA.

In recognition of Women’s History Month, this blog post highlights how SelectUSA is working to mitigate some of the challenges women-owned firms face when looking to invest in the United States.

One of the most important challenges faced by firms led or owned by women is access to financing. In 2021, startups founded solely by women received just 2 percent of the total invested by U.S. venture capital firms while solely male-founded start-ups received 83 percent. The U.S. financing ecosystem itself is male dominated: among U.S. venture capital firms, less than ten percent of decision-makers are women, while in private equity, women-owned firms manage just over 3 percent of total industry assets. Other obstacles include limited numbers of mentors for younger entrepreneurs, skewed risk perceptions among investors about women-led companies, as well as pressures that direct women towards less dynamic or capital-intensive sectors and away from entrepreneurship in general.

These hurdles are often heightened for international entrepreneurs. Compared to U.S.-based firms, many foreign-led firms lack institutional knowledge of all the financing opportunities available in the United States and how to effectively pursue them. For smaller companies, navigating the United States’ complex regulatory environment may be daunting. When combined with the challenges faced by women-led firms, these factors can prevent foreign women and their firms from investing in the United States.

For foreign firms, however, success in the U.S. market continues to be incredibly valuable. Success in the U.S. market, with its intense competition and discerning consumers, can open doors to new sources of capital. U.S. investors are often reluctant to invest in foreign firms not located in the U.S. or without a customer base in the country. U.S. investors in sectors like technology may also be more willing to embrace ambitious projects, allowing firms that catch their eye to pursue growth more aggressively.

For the United States, investment by foreign firms creates jobs and strengthens the competitive potential of the domestic economy. Investment by women-led firms may be especially valuable as research suggests firms with women in senior positions are often more profitable, more socially responsible, and dedicate more their resources towards research and development.

As part of its broader mission to strengthen U.S. competitiveness and encourage inbound investment into the United States, SelectUSA is addressing equity in investment promotion.  The variety of services which SelectUSA offers foreign firms range from custom research reports to one-on-one counseling.  In 2021, SelectUSA facilitated approximately $4.2 billion in investment from companies founded, co-founded, or led by women. Examples of these include TurtleTree and Lucence, two Singaporean biotechnology companies co-founded by women that recently established operations in California, and Hacsys, a women-led software company that opened its first office in the United States after operating in Mexico for nearly twenty years. Each of these investments were supported by the U.S. Commercial Service and SelectUSA and have created jobs here in the U.S. while pushing the boundaries of technology.

Additionally, SelectUSA is once again proud to organize the Select Global Women in Tech (SGWIT) Mentorship Network. SGWIT returns with its second Mentorship Network cohort as a part of the 2022 SelectUSA Investment Summit,  to introduce international female tech entrepreneurs to the U.S. market as well as mentors from the U.S. startup ecosystem. During the Investment Summit, SelectUSA will also release a new report on how women-led foreign technology firms can secure funding and partnerships in the U.S. SelectUSA’s hope is that these efforts can combat some of the barriers faced by women-led businesses looking to invest in the U.S. and unlock their full economic potential.

Investors interested in taking advantage of SelectUSA’s services are encouraged to reach out via email at

SelectUSA, the federal government program housed within the United States Department of Commerce, strives to promote equity as part of its broader mission to strengthen U.S. competitiveness and encourage inbound investment in the United States. Since its inception, SelectUSA has facilitated more than $102 billion in client-verified investment projects, supporting more than 132,000 U.S. jobs.