CIHE-UK~IRC Task Force maps the UK’s R&D landscape

The Council for Industry and Higher Education (CIHE) & The UK Innovation Research Centre (UK~ IRC) Enhancing Value Task Force publishes a groundbreaking report identifying five critical findings after mapping the R&D landscape of the UK.


The report, The UK R&D Landscape, is the first in a series which aims to identify and address the key issues in enhancing the innovation and the productivity impact of UK R&D.

The Task Force has made a number of key findings:

1.There has been an overall fall of total gross expenditure on R&D in the UK relative to GDP from the early 1990s to date.

This is despite a modest recovery at the beginning of this century.  In international comparative terms, while the UK has seen an increase in higher education expenditure on R&D, the overall spend on R&D in the UK relative to GDP seems to be weakening over-time.

2.The private sector component of R&D expenditure in the UK is low by international standards – even after adjusting for structural difference between countries.

It is also concentrated in the hands of a few very large firms and the small number of industrial sectors in which they are based.  The largest 10 business R&D spenders accounted for 34% of all UK R&D in 2009; the largest 50 spenders accounted for 56%.

3.   The many thousands of independent small and medium sized businesses employing fewer than 250 people accounted for only around 3.5% of the total R&D spend.

The vast majority of SME R&D is carried out by subsidiaries of larger overseas businesses and not by independent small firms.  And the UK has the lowest share of total government financed support for business R&D going to small and medium sized firms.

 4.Overseas investment in UK R&D is very high by international standards. It grew rapidly in the 1990s. That momentum has not been maintained in recent years and at the same time UK businesses have been funding an increasing proportion of their R&D outside the country.

The openness of UK R&D activity makes the UK an attractive place to carry out R&D. However, this also means the UK is relatively vulnerable to the strategic investment decisions of overseas funders of UK R&D and of the parent companies of subsidiaries based in the UK as well as the decisions of the major UK multinationals.

5.Since the global financial crisis began, the UK’s principal competitors, such as France and Germany, have increased their investment into Higher Education Research and Development at a faster rate than the UK.

At the same time the relative contribution of the private sector to the funding of R&D in the UK higher education system has declined significantly.

Click here to access the full report (The UK R&D Landscape)