House of Commons Library

Spending on Research and Development in the UK

Published Tuesday, July 21, 2015

How much is spent on research and development in the UK? How is this spending broken down by region, industry and government department? In answering these and related questions, this note presents and examines a wide range of data relating to R&D in the UK.

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Two main data series provide statistics on research and development in the UK.

The ONS’s gross domestic expenditure on R&D (GERD) series provides gross expenditure for R&D performed specifically within the UK.

The science, engineering and technology (SET) series, alternatively, provides net figures for government spending including net contributions to EU programmes.

In 2013 gross domestic expenditure on R&D (GERD) in the UK was £28.9 billion, or 1.67% of GDP.

Between 1985 and 2013 GERD grew by 52% in real terms, but because it has not grown as fast as the economy as a whole it has fallen as a proportion of GDP from 2.01% to 1.67%.

The South East, East of England and London account for a combined 52% of R&D performed in the UK. Other areas with large shares of R&D include the North West (8.7%), the South West (7.7%) and Scotland (7.2%).

Business enterprise performed £18.4 billion (64%) of UK GERD in 2013. 

Pharmaceuticals comprised 22% of this total, motor vehicles and parts 11%, computer programming and information services 11% and aerospace 9%.

Net government expenditure on R&D was £10.6 billion in 2013-14, according to the ONS’s SET statistics.

Net expenditure comprised of £3.4 billion (32%) to research councils, £2.3 billion (22%) to higher education funding councils, £2.7 billion (25%) to civil departments and £1.5 billion (14%) to the Ministry of Defence.

Commons Briefing papers SN04223

Author: Richard Keen

Topics: Research and innovation, Science

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