Research and Development

The business sector performs the most R&D in the UK. In 2016, it performed £22.2 billion, representing 67% of total expenditure on R&D in the UK. This grew 6% from £21.0 billion in 2015.


The product groups with the largest R&D expenditure in 2016 were:

  • pharmaceuticals (£4.1 billion)
  • motor vehicles and parts (£3.4 billion)
  • aerospace (£1.9 billion)
  • computer programming and information service activities (excluding software development) (£1.8 billion)
  • miscellaneous business activities (£1.3 billion)
  • research and development services (£1.0 billion)

In 2015, the computer programming and information service activities group was the third largest with £2.5 billion. For 2016, R&D into software development has been separated from this group to be monitored individually.

More detailed information on business R&D expenditure can be found in the Business enterprise research and development 2016 statistical bulletin which was published on 21 November 2017.

  • Expenditure on research and development (R&D) performed by UK businesses continued to grow, expanding by £1.1 billion to £23.7 billion in 2017, an increase of 4.9%.
  • Software development was the product group that had the largest growth in expenditure on R&D performed by UK businesses, of £358 million (34.7%).
  • London had the largest growth in regional business R&D expenditure, increasing by £448 million (19.1%) to £2.8 billion in 2017.
  • UK government funding of civil R&D has overtaken that of defence for the first time, with funding of £978 million and £820 million respectively in 2017.
  • In 2017, total UK business employment in R&D grew by 7.4% to 231,000 full-time equivalents.