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Investing in UK Research and Development

23 November 2020

Map of the UK

There is broad consensus across the political spectrum  that investing in research and innovation now will deliver  economic growth, societal benefits and position the UK at the forefront of the industries of the future.

The Prime Minister has stated that his ambition is for the UK to "become a scientific superpower", to "tackle this country’s unresolved challenges" and to "level up". Research and  innovation are central to achieving these ambitions and the UK government has made welcome commitments to  increase investment in research and innovation.

Here we outline the current investment landscape,  progress against the government’s targets, why a longer-term target of 3% GDP invested in R&D is important and factors that should be considered to deliver it.

In 2019, £38.5 billion was invested in R&D in the UK (up from £37.1 billion in 2018)

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 10 February 2022.

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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