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Taking a look at the latest national R&D stats

01 Apr 2016

Last week saw the latest data release of the UK Gross domestic expenditure on research and development. This provides estimates of R&D in Business Enterprise, Higher Education, Government, which includes Research Councils, and Private Non-Profit organisations for 2014.

The ONS have done a good breakdown of the headline figures with some nice graphs and interactive figures – worth a look.

The headlines include:

  • Total R&D expenditure in the UK in 2014 represented 1.67% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), unchanged from 2013. This was below the European Union (EU-28) provisional estimate of 2.03% of GDP, and puts the UK at 11th compared to all member countries.
  • UK gross domestic R&D expenditure, as a percentage of GDP, declined steadily between 1990 and 1997. Since 1998, the level has fluctuated between 1.59% and 1.73% with an average estimate of 1.67% for the period 1998 to 2014.
  • In constant prices, which have been adjusted to remove the effects of inflation, the value of R&D expenditure in 2014 (£30.6 billion) reached its highest level on record, surpassing 2013’s high by £0.9 billion, which represented an increase of 3%. With an average annual growth rate of 1.6% since the 1990 level (£21.1 billion), a long-term upward trend, in constant prices, is still evident

Looking a bit further at the breakdown by the ONS, this figure shows the contribution each sector made to total UK R&D expenditure in 2014.

Composition of UK GERD by performing sector, 2014

Business is the largest contributor, and is up slightly on last year. The proportions echo the international norm of 1/3 public and 2/3 private investment in R&D.

The below sets out the expenditure by the UK business sector on performing R&D, by product group for 2014. Compared to 2013, slight drops in Pharmaceuticals research have been compensated for by increases in other sectors, including R&D in computer programming and information service activities (moving from 3rd to 2nd place behind Pharmaceuticals), as well as slight increases in R&D on motor vehicles and parts.

Expenditure by the UK business sector on performing R&D, by product group, 2014

One area that the ONS notes decreases in is in R&D expenditure in the UK performed by Government and research councils. The UK government owns many research institutes and laboratories that carry out R&D. These are managed by different government departments, including the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department of Health.

In 2014, R&D expenditure in the UK performed by the government and research councils sector decreased by 5% in current prices, from £2.3 billion in 2013 to £2.2 billion in 2014. This sector accounted for 7% of total expenditure on R&D performed in the UK in 2014.

We will await with interest the Science Engineering and Technology Stats that are likely to come out this summer to see how departmental R&D spend has fared.