Who's who in the ONS' R&D Top 10?
Posted on 24 November 2015
Much is being made these days of the need for companies to invest in their operations, and particularly in research and development (R&D).
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) recently published data that showed how R&D spending in current prices rose 6% last year to £19.9bn, compared with 2013.
The ONS illustrated its latest data with a graph showing sector expenditure between 2007 and 2014, ranked highest to lowest. I've reproduced it here but you can see a larger – and frankly more readable – version on page five of this document.
It should perhaps come as little surprise that with the scale of profits to be made in the industry the pharmaceutical sector has consistently occupied the top spot for the past seven years, with expenditure on R&D in 2014 coming in at a whopping £3.9bn.
What is a surprise, perhaps, is the movements of the other nine sectors in the top 10, none of which ended 2014 in the same slot as they began 2007. Some have been in the same place for a while, while others have leaped up and down the rankings.
Computer programming, IT and other related services has held the second spot from 2010 to 2014, and given the demand for new technologies this is understandable.
Meanwhile motor vehicles and parts has occupied third place since 2011, and with the surge in activity across the UK’s automotive sector this is no surprise.
The sector was sixth in the R&D expenditure rankings in 2007, pausing only for breath at number five in 2008 and 2009, when the industry was in the post-financial crisis doldrums, before rising to third place in 2011, where it has stayed ever since.
In terms of movement within the top 10 perhaps the most interesting sectors are chemicals and chemical products and consumer electronics and communications equipment.
The chemicals industry often highlights how it is an export leader and at the forefront of so much that we take for granted both in industry and in wider society, so it is interesting to see how its R&D profile has ebbed and flowed.
Similarly the consumer electronics sector; the appetite for new products would lead one to assume that R&D spend would be consistent – and consistently high. True, a figure approaching £1bn is not small beer by any means.
But I’m still surprised to see it down at number eight in the R&D spend Top 10.
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