(Bloomberg) — Companies are again putting money where their competitive advantage lies: in uncovering the products that will one day change how you work and play.

Corporate spending on research and development rose 6.7 percent in 2014, almost twice the previous year's gain and the biggest advance since 1996, according to Commerce Department data. The pickup was capped by a 14 percent fourth-quarter surge that signals additional increases are on the way.

The spending could extend the momentum of an era of growth-inducing innovation that produced smartphones and tablet computers, 3-D printers, cloud software that delivers services via the Internet and hydraulic fracturing that is making the United States more energy self-sufficient. Combined with what's still on the drawing board, such initiatives raise the odds productivity will rebound, boosting the standard of living.

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