Government publishes science indicators

Last week the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills published the 2011 SET (Science, Engineering and Technology) Statistics. They provide a useful look at Government expenditure on SET by departments, the number of qualified scientists and engineers in the labour force and a number of comparators of UK expenditure on Research and Development (R&D) against other G7 countries.

We’ve had a look at the statistics and highlighted some of the findings we found interesting below.  You’re encouraged to have a look at the figures for yourself and share your findings in the comments section.   It’s important to note that this year’s SET Statistics only cover up until the end of 2009-10, so last year’s funding decisions won’t have had an effect yet.

How is the UK doing in comparison to the other G7 countries?

The SET Statistics provide a snapshot of how much of the G7 countries economy is focused on R&D.  Data covering 2005 – 2009 (Table A3.1) shows Japan leading the field of Gross Domestic Expenditure on Research and Development (GERD) as a percentage of GDP, despite a small decrease from 2008 to 2009.  In 2009, 3.34% of Japan’s GDP was spent on R&D.  In comparison in 2009, the UK spent 1.85% and ranked 6th in the table, only above Italy who spent 1.27%.  Figures for the US in 2009 were not available for inclusion, but it’s unlikely that they will have dropped from 2nd place.

In 2005 and 2006 the UK ranked 6th out of 7 in Business Enterprise Research and Development (BERD) as a percentage of GDP (Table A3.2) but has since 2007 has overtaken Canada to claim 5th place.  In 2009, BERD accounted for 1.12% of UK’s GDP.  The UK ranks higher in Higher Education Expenditure on Research and Development (HERD) as a percentage of GDP (Table A3.3), maintaining 2nd place since 2005, with 0.52% in 2009, behind Canada.  For Government Intramural Expenditure (GovERD – R&D within the government sector) as a percentage of R&D (Table A3.4)the UK is found at the bottom of the table, briefly overtaking Italy in 2008, only to return to 7th place in 2009 with 0.17%.

In looking at R&D performed in G7 countries by source of funding (Table A3.6), in 2009 the UK’s GERD was comprised of:

  • 44.5% Industry
  • 32.6% Government
  • 6.3% Other national sources
  • 16.6% Abroad

The figure for percentage of GERD financed by Industry is particularly interesting – comparable figures in 2009 for other G7 countries were Canada 47.6%, France 50.5%, Japan 75.3% and US 67.3% (figures for Germany and Italy were not available).  If the UK is improve its overall GERD ranking in comparison to other G7 countries then it will be important to see the percentage of GERD financed by Industry increase.  A forthcoming CaSE report will examine how the Government can encourage investment in R&D in the UK – if you would like to contribute to this project, please contact

Scientists and engineers in the labour force

The number of people with Higher Education (HE) science and engineering qualifications in the population has shown an increase with 2.9m in 2006 (Table 3.1 2009), 3.3m in 2007 (Table 3.1 2010) and 4.2m in 2009 (Table 3.1 2011).  Looking at levels of employment within this group, there has been a continued decrease from 88.1% in 2006, to 87.9% in 2007 and 85.4% in 2009.  The effects of, and lead up to, the recession may offer an explanation for this trend.

Usefully, the SET Statistics separate out these figures for men and women.   There has been an encouraging increase in the percentage of women with HE science and engineering qualifications with 38.5% in 2006, rising to 39.5% in 2007 and then 47.4% in 2008.

Defence spending

One section of the SET statistics looks at ‘Government funding of net R&D by socio-economic objectives’ (Table 2.4).  While all other areas have seen their percentage share increase or hold steady, Government funding of Defence R&D has decreased from 23% in 2007-08, to 21% in 2008-9 and 18% in 2009-10.  ‘General advancement of knowledge: R&D financed from other sources’ is the only other objective to see a decrease, in this case from 21% in 2007-08, to 20% in 2008-09 and 19% in 2009-10.

A related table shows the aggregate destination of total Government R&D expenditure (Table 2.5) where the total gross expenditure for Defence R&D drops from £2.2bn in 2007-08, to £2.1bn in 2008-09 and £1.8bn in 2009-10 in cash terms.  This is contrast to a rise in Civil R&D total gross expenditure in cash terms from £7.1bn in 2007-08, to £7.4bn in 2008-09 and £8.0bn in 2009-10.

The bottom line

Since 2006-07, the net Government expenditure on R&D by department (in real terms) has seen a year on year increase to a total of £10.4bn in 2009-10 (Table 2.2).  But, as previously mentioned, these figures don’t include the cuts taking place now.  A recent CaSE report, ‘Public Funding of UK Science and Engineering: Putting Government Rhetoric to the Test’ questioned just how protected the Science Budget had been in the last Comprehensive Spending review and highlighted the importance of the UK investing in R&D in order to benefit fully from other countries’ R&D spending.  Our key findings include:

  • Current plans put the initial spend on the Research Base Budget at £5.7bn with an uneven decline over the spending review period to £5.4bn in 2014-15.  And this doesn’t take into account this morning’s announcement that inflation will rise to 5.2%, further eroding its value.
  • By 2014-15, £1.6bn less will have been spent than if investment was maintained at 2010-11 levels as defined by the current Government in SR10.  If investment was maintained at 2010-11 levels as planned by the previous Government in CSR07, £1.7bn less would have been spent.
  • The science budget is frozen at £4.6bn as defined in SR10 (excludes capital, but includes HEFCE research spending).  However, if the CSR07 definition of the science had been retained there would have been an immediate fall of £200m from £4.1bn to £3.9bn, and £2.3bn less spent through this funding by the end of 2014-15.

Bearing this in mind, we await the SET Statistics in 2012 with great interest.

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One Comment

  1. Posted 29/10/2011 at 10:01 | Permalink

    No surprise about Japan leading the GERD- looking forward to the report on investment in R&D in the UK!

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