British firms step up R&D spend by 9%

Companies listed in Britain increased spending on research and development by 9 per cent to pounds 7.1bn in the past year, according to figures published today.

The combined rate of increase of the 13 British companies included in the world's top 200 spenders exceeded that of the United States, Japan and most of Europe - accelerating a four-year trend, say the compilers of the 1994 UK R&D Scoreboard.

The scoreboard is produced by Company Reporting, the Edinburgh-based accounts-monitoring organisation that uses published accounts up to 31 May 1994, and the Department of Trade and Industry's innovation unit. In the UK it is - as in previous years - dominated by the pharmaceuticals sector, which saw spending rise 19 per cent from last year to pounds 2.26bn.

Glaxo, with a 24 per cent rise to pounds 739m; SmithKline Beecham, up 20 per cent to pounds 575m; Zeneca, formerly part of ICI and a new entrant to the world's top 200 with a 7 per cent rise to pounds 490m; and Wellcome, up 28 per cent to pounds 325m, were all big spenders. The others in the UK top 10 were Shell, pounds 529m; Unilever, pounds 518m; GEC, pounds 398m; Rolls-Royce, pounds 253m; BP, pounds 237m; and BT, pounds 233m.

Other leading sectors for R&D spending in the UK were engineering, which saw a 10 per cent rise to pounds 853m; oil, despite a 5 per cent drop to pounds 806m; and food manufacturing, which rose 13 per cent to pounds 613m.

The United States, with 81 companies in the world's top 200 R&D spenders, and Japan, with 48, continue to dominate the international scoreboard, which was started four years ago. France topped the European league, with 17 companies in the top 200. But Britain's 13 put it ahead of Germany, with 11.

Of the world top 200, 28 spend more than pounds 1bn on R&D.