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Government Expenditure on R&D Analysis- 2022 ONS Figures

07 May 2024

Dr Daniel Rathbone

Deputy Executive Director

Last week the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published the latest Government Expenditure on R&D (GovERD) statistics for 2022, which provide estimates of research and development (R&D) performed in and funded by UK government departments and the devolved administrations.

Overall Picture

In current prices, there has been steady increase in overall expenditure since 2016 which has continued (there is a slight bulge in 2020, which is additional one-off Covid related expenditure.) This is really positive and shows that the Government has been following through on its promises to significantly increase public investment in R&D.

However, when accounting for inflation, much of the cash increase in recent years has been eaten up by high inflation. In 2022, excluding defence (it is not possible to include defence figures before 2019 because the methodology changed in 2018 and the figures are not directly comparable), the Government invested £14bn, which, while significantly higher than the £11.4bn in 2016, is broadly unchanged from 2019. When defence is included, overall investment has continued to increase, but this masks an area of concern for the wider sector. 

The breakdown of figures shows that UKRI’s expenditure in constant prices in 2022 was broadly unchanged from 2021 and is up only slightly on 2019. It is critical that the Government continues to support basic research through UKRI as this is the crucial underpinning of the UK’s research base. Increasing departmental and Quality-Related (QR) investment are very welcome, but UKRI must not get left behind.

By Department

When looking at departmental breakdown, BEIS and the Department of Health and Social Care (including the NHS) are by far the biggest investors in R&D (the drop in BEIS funding 2018 to 2019 is because Innovate UK was included in BEIS funding pre-2019 and UKRI post-2019). There have been increases in funding by DEFRA and Department for Transport in recent years, although in the case of DEFRA this does not yet take it back to the high levels seen before substantial cuts 2010-2015.