The Department regularly assesses comparative levels of R&D expenditure in the UK and in EU member states. The Office for National Statistics has estimated that overall gross R&D expenditure in the UK was £33.1 billion in 2016—1.7% of GDP, compared with the EU average of 1.9% of GDP. We must do more, so in our industrial strategy we have committed to spending 2.4% of GDP on R&D across the UK economy by 2027.
Many British-based scientists are concerned that their participation in cross-border science networks might be jeopardised by Brexit. Can the Minister confirm that it is this Government’s intention that the UK should continue to participate in Horizon Europe’s next framework programme, FP9, and that the best way for us to help to make sure that that happens is for this House to support the withdrawal agreement?
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend on this issue. The Government’s priority is a smooth and orderly exit from the EU as set out in principle in the EU withdrawal agreement. Voting for the agreement would provide continuity and reassurance for researchers in continuing to participate in the Horizon programmes. It is no secret that we want to explore association with Horizon Europe. The political declaration makes clear our joint intention to establish terms and conditions regarding UK participation in EU programmes as part of our future relationship.
As I said to the Minister yesterday, I have two universities in my constituency, and they are very concerned about research and development; they do a lot of work for companies like Jaguar Land Rover, and mainly in the industrial sector. What guarantee can the Minister give that the level of funding will be maintained after 2020? The Chancellor has not committed to that so far.
I am proud, as the Universities Minister, that we have in this country three of the world’s top 10 universities when it comes to research. We want to ensure that we continue to have that international reputation. We have made Treasury guarantees on the underwrite extension, ensuring that we continue to be part of all the projects that are part of Horizon 2020. We want to ensure that the association with Horizon Europe has universities at the front and centre of it.