Research spending in Britain hits record high

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Businesses in Britain spent 26 billion U.S. dollars on research and development in 2015, the highest level on record, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported Thursday.

Research and development on civil projects during the year was just over 24 billion U.S. dollars, a six percent rise over 2014, while defense research and development expenditure decreased by four percent in 2015 to 1.9 billion U.S. dollars.

ONS said expenditure on research and development performed in Britain last year by foreign-owned businesses increased by five percent and accounted for 51 percent of total British business expenditure.

Figures show the largest increase in research and development expenditure in 2015 was in the automotive and vehicle parts sector which increased by 422 million U.S. dollars, or 14 percent of the total.

The largest increase in regional research and development expenditure in percentage terms was in Northern Ireland, which increased last year by 40 percent to 624 million U.S. dollars.

ONS reported that in 2015, a total of 206,000 people were employed by business on research and development work, a six percent increase over the previous year. It includes 106,000 scientists and engineers and 64,000 technicians as well as 36,000 administrative staff.

In its report, ONS said research and development expenditure in Britain reached 20.9 billion pounds (25.95 billion U.S. dollars) in 2015, up from 7.8 billion pounds in 1991. The steady increase, said ONS, shows an average annual growth rate of 4.2 percent.

"In constant price terms, the value of research and development expenditure in 2015 reached its highest level on record, surpassing the 2014 high by 1.1 billion pounds," added the spokesman.

The pharmaceutical sector has been the biggest spender on research and development, spending 5.2 billion U.S. dollars in 2015, followed by the automotive sector, which spent 3.37 billion U.S. dollars.

Computer programming and IT, which was in the third place, accounted for 11 percent of the total spending in Britain on research and development.

The ONS figures also show that 70 percent of the cost of research and development was paid for by the business sector, the highest ever level in comparison charts going back to 1991. A further 18 percent of research work was funded from overseas, and most of the rest from the British government. Endit

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