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Research councils spending on R & D drops by more than a fifth in a year

Spending on research and development by the UK research councils has fallen sharply, according to official figures.

An Office for National Statistics (ONS) report reveals an overall drop of 2 per cent in the UK’s gross domestic expenditure on research and development (R&D).

International comparisons show that UK R&D expenditure in 2012 was below the EU average of 2.06% of GDP, with the UK ranked below, among others, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Estonia and the Czech Republic.

Contributing to the drop was a 22 per cent reduction in expenditure by the seven research councils which fund university research, taking spending down from £1 billion in 2011 to £0.8 billion in 2012.

A Research Councils UK (RCUK) spokesman said the drop was the result of cuts in the funding settlement in the 2010 spending review.

The fall is part of an 8 per cent drop in R&D expenditure in the UK by the government and research councils, from £2.4 billion in 2011 to £2.2 billion in 2012. These accounted for 8 per cent of total expenditure on R&D in the UK in 2012, while the business sector accounted for 63%.

Universities and higher education institutions contributed 27 per cent of the total UK R&D expenditure in 2012 at £7.2 billion, an increase of 1 per cent in current prices.

The rise suggests universities are increasing the amount of R&D funding they secure from business and other funding streams beyond the Government and the research councils.