There is broad consensus across the political spectrum to increase total investment in UK research and development (R&D). The Government has committed to meet a target of 2.4% of GDP invested in UK R&D within ten years, and a longer-term goal of 3%.

The UK National Academies have produced a document outlining the current R&D investment landscape in the UK, why the 3% target is important for the UK and factors that should be considered to deliver it.

Investing in UK R&D (377.18 KB)


Where are we now? 

Research and innovation benefits people in the UK and around the world by underpinning our industries, creating jobs and applications that improve the quality of our lives and by enriching our cultural well-being.

In 2015, £31.6 billion was invested in R&D in the UK. This equates to 1.68% of GDP. Business invested the most at 0.82%, followed by government and Research Councils at 0.34%, and then overseas investment at 0.29% which includes investments investment from non-UK business and EU funding streams.

Other sources of investment include the higher education sector and the private non-profit sector, including medial research charities. 

 

Where are we now? Total investment in UK R&D as a percentage of GDP 

Source: ONS (2015) UK gross domestic expenditure on research and development. Note: Figures are rounded.  

 

Where are we now? - Total investment in UK R&D as a percentage of GDP (11.18 KB)


Where is investment in UK R&D spent?

R&D spend varies from region to region, with each having different strengths and dependencies. A successful industrial strategy should present a national vision while recognising that the UK and its industries are not uniform.

 

Where is investment in UK R&D spent?

Note - figures are rounded. Source: ONS (2015) UK gross domestic expenditure on research and development.

* East Midlands and West Midlands regions data have been combined due to confidentiality.

 

Where is investment in UK R&D spent? (12.47 KB)


How does UK investment in R&D compare internationally?

Most companies, including those established in the UK, have to make global decisions about where to situate their high value R&D activities. In this highly competitive and internationalised environment countries must offer a competitive research, innovation and business environment if they want to attract skilled people and companies.

The UK invests a lower percentage of GDP in R&D than most of our competitors, many of whom have also launched specific strategies targeted at boosting their innovation performance, including increasing their R&D investment.

 

International R&D landscape

Source: OECD Main Science and Technology Indicators 2015. Data for comparator countries shown. Note - figures are rounded. Please note, ONS data has been used for the UK for greater accuracy. The latest available data has been used for each country. Some countries have not published data for 2015, in which case 2014 data has veen used. 

 

How does UK investment in R&D compare internationally? (9.18 KB)


How the UK government invests in R&D

In addition, we have also produced an overview of some of the structures by which the UK government allocates public funding for R&D in the UK.

How does the UK government invest in R&D? (422.82 KB)