The latest official figures from the Office of Science and Technology show that between 1984 and 1995 the United Kingdom notched up the lowest growth in gross expenditure on research and development by public and private sectors among the Group of Seven leading industrialised nations.
The UK lags a little behind Italy on this measure and is well behind countries such as Germany, France, United States and most of all Japan, which managed a staggering 90 per cent increase.
As for the Government's outlay on science, engineering and technology, Pounds 6 billion was spent during 1996-97, of which Pounds 2.3 billion went on research and training in universities and research council establishments.
Of the Pounds 2.3 billion directed towards universities, Pounds 1.3 billion was farmed out to the research councils and the remainder to higher education funding councils for university research infrastructure and salaries of full-time researchers.
While spending on the science base (universities and research councils) has increased slightly in real terms over the past few years, cutbacks by civil departments have been severe.
The BSE-troubled Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, for instance, spent Pounds 236 million in real terms in 1986-87 on R&D in its own laboratories, universities and research council institutes. By 1994-95 this had been whittled down to Pounds 150 million.
The cuts have hit research institutes allied to the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences particularly badly.
Similarly, the Department of Trade and Industry has slashed its expenditure on science and engineering from nearly Pounds 700 million in 1986-87 to just Pounds 345 million in 1994-95. Total government spend on science, engineering and technology has dropped by Pounds 1 billion since 1986.
The overall picture is one of a gradual Government withdrawal from funding of R&D in the broadest sense, and an inability on the part of much of British industry to keep pace with its industrial competitors in investing in R&D.
TOTAL UNIVERSITY INCOME FROM RESEARCH GRANTS AND CONTRACTS 1994/95
England Wales Scotland NI Total UK
OST research councils 416698 14632 61220 4224 496774
UK-based charities 268068 7085 33994 4041 313188
UK Govt bodies,health & hosp auth 192916 11239 33817 6115 244087
UK indust, commerce & public corps 129899 5616 203 1693 157535
EU sources 114599 5898 20298 4418 145213
Other overseas sources 47916 1449 6477 222 56064
Other sources 30597 2304 6532 829 40262
Total 1200692 48223 182665 21542 1453122