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This debate pack has been complied ahead of the debate on Science and research in the UK and regional economies on Wednesday 24 June 2015 at 09:30am.

The Member in charge of the debate is Paul Blomfield MP. Debate packs are produced quickly after the announcement of parliamentary business. They are intended to provide a summary or overview of the issue being debated and identify relevant briefings and useful documents, including press and parliamentary material. More detailed briefing can be prepared for Members on request to the Library.

Public funding for research comes from a mix of devolved (e.g. Higher Education Funding Council for England) and UK (e.g. Research Councils) institutions. Bodies like Innovate UK have a specific focus on industrial research. Within these broad frameworks, grants are awarded on a competitive basis.

Successive governments have sought to protect the science budget – both in terms of recurring and capital costs. The latter are increasingly being linked to earmarked projects, a recent one being the Alan Turing Institute based at the British Library. The non-capital science budget, held by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, currently stands at £4.6 billion per annum. The Conservative Party Manifesto 2015 provides an outline of the new Government’s general policy commitments in this area.

A library standard note, Research and Development in the UK, includes, among other things, a regional breakdown of support for science from different sources identified as government, higher education, business and private non-profit organisations (e.g. charities). On 20 March, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published a statistical bulletin: UK Gross Domestic Expenditure on Research and Development, 2013.

The ONS provides data on R&D expenditure by UK country and region. In this context, the country and region refers to the location where the R&D is performed, not the location of the funder. In 2013, the South East and East of England continued to dominate R&D activity in the UK, accounting for 40% of total UK R&D – £11.4 billion. Note that London adds a further £3.7 billion to this.

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 £9.7 billion in 2012, according to the ONS’s SET statistics. This is a 13.5% rise, in real terms, on expenditure a decade previously.

Net expenditure comprised of £3.0 billion (31%) to research councils, £2.2 billion (23%) to higher education funding councils, £2.3 billion (24%) to civil departments and £1.5 billion (15%) to the Ministry of Defence.


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