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Science and innovation strategy response: Government urged to match competitor countries' spending

17 December 2014

UCU responded to today's release of the government's science and innovation strategy by backing calls from the business, innovation and skills select committee for a commitment of 3 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) to be earmarked for research and development (R&D) by 2020.

Today's strategy sets out just how far the UK is behind key competitor countries. Gross expenditure on R&D in 2012 accounted for just 1.72 per cent of GDP, down from 1.78 per cent the previous before, and well below the average of other comparable nations.

The US invests around 2.8 per cent of GDP on R&D per annum. China is now investing at a higher intensity than the UK at 1.8 per cent of GDP. South Korea doubled, in real terms, its expenditure between 2005 and 2012, now investing 4.4 per cent of GDP.

France and Germany have consistently invested substantially more than 2 per cent of their GDP in R&D, with Germany recently achieving its aspiration to increase this to 3 per cent of GDP.

UCU welcomed the strategy's recommendation that R&D investment should be looked at as a long-term priority. It also highlighted the strategy's finding that firms in developed economies are increasingly turning to knowledge-based investments to drive growth and said the UK could not afford to be left behind.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: 'Today's strategy sets out the very real risk that the UK may get left behind when it comes to high-skill activities and rewards. We are behind our competitor countries at present and risk falling further behind. We back MPs' calls for 3 per cent of GDP to go on R&D by 2020.

'Calls for businesses to invest more in research and development is welcome, but the government must ensure that basic research is adequately supported if the UK is to maintain its international position.'

UCU's manifesto calls for increased public spending on the knowledge economy, including science and research, to close the funding gap between the UK and international competitors.

Last updated: 16 March 2021