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Investing in UK Research and Development

23 November 2020

There is broad consensus across the political spectrum to increase total investment in UK research and development (R&D). The Government has committed to investing £22 billion in R&D by 2024 – 25 as part of a target of 2.4% of GDP by 2027, and 3% in the longer-term. A wide-ranging R&D roadmap has been published to help shape and deliver this agenda.

To deliver an overall increase in R&D investment, the UK needs to foster research and innovation throughout public services, universities and businesses, and attract global investment, incentivising companies to locate their R&D here. Only by doing this will we enable research and innovation to help improve the health and wealth of the country.

In 2018, £37.1 billion was invested in R&D in the UK (up from £34.8 billion in 2017)

Source: ONS

Here we outline the current investment landscape, why the 3% target is important for the UK and factors that should be considered to deliver it.

*Please note: This page was updated on 23 November 2020.

What is R&D? 

R&D is defined as creative work undertaken on a systematic basis in order to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of humankind, culture and society and the use of this stock of knowledge to devise new applications and includes basic research, applied research and experimental development. 

What is Innovation? 

Innovation often draws on R&D, but R&D is not always part of the activity of innovation. An innovation is defined as the implementation of a new or significantly improved product (good or service), or process, a new marketing method, or a new organisational method in business practices, workplace organisation or external relations.

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