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Research Industry

Volume 281: debated on Wednesday 17 July 1996

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To ask the President of the Board of Trade how much the United Kingdom spent on research and development per capita in the last year for which figures are available. [36084]

In 1994, the latest year for which figures are available, the amount spent by the United Kingdom on gross expenditure on research and development—GERD—per capita was £251.60.

As one who—admittedly many years ago now—was involved in research and development, and noting the Minister's answer to Question 10, I should like to know whether the Minister accepts that our expenditure on research and development has not kept pace with the other G7 countries, which is probably why we have dropped from 13th to 18th place in the prosperity league. Will the Minister assure the House that there is no point in having short-term gimmicks? We need long-term investment in research and development—otherwise we will finish up as a screwdriver nation.

Business investment levels in research and development have been rising year on year, but I accept that, in terms of the "Research and Development Scoreboard", they are at a lower level of intensity than those of some of our main competitors. We are urging business to do more. I should clarify that the science base—which is the budget of the Office of Science and Technology and the research budget of the Higher Education Funding Council—has risen by more than 10 per cent. over the past 10 years, which is a remarkable achievement in view of other budgetary pressures. The science base is, therefore, healthy. We are now attempting to attract more private sector capital to add to our own expenditure, as was recently shown by the foresight challenge awards, in which £30 million of Government money brought in £62 million in private sector money.