UK research spending lags but still bucks the trend

August 11, 1995

The United Kingdom is defying the international norm by increasing research and development expenditure, according to statistics produced by the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

In 1993, the UK was the only top industrial country to register an annual growth in R&D spending, some 2.5 per cent. The United States fell back by 0.5 per cent and Japan even further by 2.4 per cent. The OECD said that the cut-back in military research, as well as reduced industry research budgets, partly explain the lower spending globally.

But the UK growth figures still leave gross R&D spending some way behind major international competitors. The $21.6 billion spent by the UK contrasts with $26 billion by France, $37.2 billion by Germany, $74.8 billion by Japan and $170 billion by the US. Spending per inhabitant is half that in the US, $373.2 compared with $659.

New figures for research spending in higher education also show that the UK lags behind industrial rivals. In 1993, the UK spent $3.5 billion, compared with $4.2 billion in France, $6.5 billion in Germany, $15.1 billion in Japan and $25.2 billion in the US. For the UK, these figures represent a 3 per cent growth rate, lower than Germany and France, and half the 6.1 per cent rate in Japan.

The OECD found that higher education now accounts for 16.5 per cent of the UK's R&D expenditure. That is more than the US and France, but less than Japan, Italy and Germany. It is also less than the OECD average of 17.1 per cent.

The country with the highest recorded higher education involvement is Mexico, at 41.7 per cent.

In the UK, the business enterpise sector absorbs most of the R&D money, some 65.9 per cent of the total.

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