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Investing in UK Research and Development

07 November 2017

There is broad consensus across the political spectrum to increase total investment in UK research and development (R&D). The Government has committed to meet a target of 2.4% of GDP invested in UK R&D within ten years, and a longer-term goal of 3%.

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. A strategic approach, alongside an Industrial Strategy, will be key to realising our ambition. Only by doing this will we improve the health and wealth of the nation. 

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

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.

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 man, culture and society and the use of this stock of knowledge to devise new applications. It includes basic research, applied research and experimental development. 

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 relations3.