R&d spending in the global auto industry took a big hit in 2009, according to a study by consultants Booz & Company.

According to the report, which looked at the world's 1,000 biggest r&d spenders, global automotive r&d outlays dropped more than 12 billion dollars to an aggregate 85.2 billion dollars in 2009. Despite the decline, the industry was the world's third-largest investor in r&d after the computing-and-electronics and health care sectors.

"The global recession finally caught up with the world's top innovators," the Booz report said.

The consultants noted that overall r&d spending declined the most at Japanese companies, which cut their outlays by 10.8 percent. North American spending declined 3.8 percent, while European companies only cut back 0.2 percent.

By contrast, r&d spending in India and China soared 41.8 percent, albeit from a much lower base.

Among global carmakers, Toyota had to relinquish its top spot after it cut r&d spending by 20 percent.

The results of the study can be downloaded here.