Investing in UK R&D


In recent years a broad consensus has emerged across the political spectrum to increase total investment in UK research and development (R&D). In order to put this into context, the four National Academies have produced the following infographics to outline the current investment landscape. 

Increasing overall R&D investment is the target. To deliver this we need to create a vibrant environment that fosters research and innovation throughout UK public services, universities, charities and businesses and attracts global investment, incentivising companies to locate their R&D here.

We consider why a 3% target is important, as well as the factors that can help to deliver it

"In 2015 £31.6bn was invested in R&D in the UK (up from £30.6bn in 2014)."


Why investing in R&D is important

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.

"Around 25% of the world’s top 100 prescription medicines were discovered and developed in the UK."    [1]

 "Firms that consistently invest in R&D are 13% more productive than firms that don’t invest in R&D."[2]


A race to the top: How does the UK compare to its global competitors?

Future spending commitments


"In the 2016 Autumn Statement the Government committed to investing an additional £4.7bn in science and innovation over a 4 year period."

Delivering 3%: Factors we need to consider

Recent increases in government investment in R&D are welcome, but this alone will not be sufficient to make the UK the most innovative country in the world. To develop an effective Industrial Strategy we need to better understand the delicate and interconnected nature of the UK’s research and innovation ecosystem. This is explored further in the following three figures. A better understanding will help us to identify where changes to funding, infrastructure and regulation may have impacts on other aspects of the system.

UK R&D is funded and performed by multiple sectors

R&D is funded and performed by many different players in its research and innovation ecosystem, with multiple interdependencies between these players. A successful Industrial Strategy, underpinned by R&D, should recognise and use these interdependences to develop a cohesive system.

Different UK regions have different strengths and dependencies

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.

The UK’s industries are not uniform and investment in R&D changes over time

The UK’s industries are not uniform and change over time. A successful Industrial Strategy will need to consider how to capitalise on the existing strengths within sectors as well as taking advantage of upcoming opportunities in emerging sectors and technologies.

[1] BMI Research, “United Kingdom Pharmaceuticals & Healthcare Report, Q1 2016”, p. 61.

[2] Cable, V (2014) Innovation and the UK knowledge economy.

Staff leads

INSPIRE Sharing Conference

Book Now

Succeeding in Team Science

Book Now

Mentoring Masterclass, Leicester

Book Now
View more