UK spend in R&D still lags competitors

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The Independent Online

Britain is slowly closing the research and development gap with its major industrial competitors but there remains a huge gulf between the amounts invested here compared with countries such as the United States and Japan.

Britain is slowly closing the research and development gap with its major industrial competitors but there remains a huge gulf between the amounts invested here compared with countries such as the United States and Japan.

The Department of Trade and Industry's annual R&D Scoreboard, published today, also shows that UK investment continues to be skewed towards the pharmaceutical sector while our impressive record in attracting inward investment has not improved the overall R&D record. Subsidiaries of overseas companies based here invest less than either their UK counterparts or their parent companies.

In the two sectors where the UK spends more on R&D as a proportion of sales than overseas competitors - pharmaceuticals and aerospace - its lead is either being maintained or extended. Last year the UK pharmaceutical sector, led by Glaxo Wellcome, Astra Zeneca and SmithKline Beecham, invested just over 15 per cent of sales in R&D. This was 1.2 times the international average.

But in other sectors such as information technology, software, electronics and chemicals, the UK continues to trail badly with British investment running at just 30-40 per cent of international levels.

The DTI's Future and Innovation Unit, which compiles the data, said that only 4 per cent of large UK companies are investing more than 10 per cent of their sales in R&D while the figure in the US is 25 per cent.

This is despite evidence that companies which invest heavily in R&D enjoy much higher sales growth and stock market ratings.

The 2000 R&D Scoreboard: www.innovation.gov.uk

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