Documents to download

Summary

Research and development (R&D) refers to creative and systematic work undertaken to increase the stock of knowledge.

Total R&D

In the UK in 2018, total expenditure on R&D was £37.1 billion, £558 per head, or the equivalent of 1.7% of GDP.

R&D investment has risen steadily over the past few decades, from £20.0 billion in 1986 to the current total of £37.1 billion (in 2018 prices). This is a real terms increase of 94%.

But as a proportion of GDP, R&D expenditure has fallen over this period (it was the equivalent of 19% of GDP in 1986).

The Government has a target for total R&D investment to reach 2.4% of GDP by 2027.

Sectors funding R&D

The business sector is the largest funder of R&D performed in the UK. In 2018, it funded £20.3 billion (55%) of R&D.

Public funding for R&D (government, research councils and the devolved higher education funding councils) was £9.6 billion in 2018, 26% of the total.

Sectors performing R&D

The business sector performed R&D worth £25.0 billion in 2018, 68% of the total.

The public sector (including research councils and devolved higher education) performed £11.2 billion of R&D, 30% of the total.

R&D by region

In 2018, R&D performed in the South East of England was worth £7.0 billion, 19% of the total. R&D performed in the South East, the East of England and London accounted for 53% of all UK R&D. Per head, R&D expenditure in the East of England is the highest: £1064 per head. The figure for the whole UK was £558 per head. In Wales, R&D expenditure is £250 per head.

R&D by sector

In 2019, the pharmaceutical industry performed the most R&D in the UK – worth £4.8 billion. The automotive manufacturing industry performed the second most R&D, worth £3.4 billion.

In 2018, the pharmaceuticals sector employed the most the most people in R&D related roles: 29,000.

International comparisons

The UK R&D expenditure of 1.7% of GDP is below the OECD average of 2.4%.

R&D expenditure in Germany is the equivalent of 3.1% of GDP, in the US it is 2.8% and in France it is 2.2%.

Top R&D performing companies

The world’s top three R&D performing companies are Alphabet (from the USA), which performed €23.2 billion of R&D in 2019, Microsoft (from the USA), which performed €17.2 billion, followed by Huawei (from China), which performed €16.7 billion and, which performed £12.9 billion.


Documents to download

Related posts

  • Connected and autonomous road vehicles

    This paper considers some of the key implications of ‘connected and autonomous vehicles’ (CAVs), often referred to as self-driving cars, for the UK road transport sector. It includes discussion of the potential benefits of road-based CAVs; barriers to adoption; and the evolving regulatory framework.

    Connected and autonomous road vehicles
  • The UK Space Industry

    This Library briefing paper gives an overview of the UK space industry, including an introduction to the space sector and key UK Space Agency programmes. It also covers space policy and progress made towards developing the regulatory framework for UK space launches.

    The UK Space Industry