NEWS21 September 2022

Changes planned for how UK measures research and development (R&D)

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UK – The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is working on improving the measurement of research and development (R&D) activity, including changes to the methodology used to compile the data.

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Data on R&D is currently collected by surveying UK businesses, charities and government departments about the R&D activity they are carrying out and investing in. 

The statistics are used to show how the UK’s investment in R&D compares to that of other countries, as well as which parts of the country drive R&D activity. 

As part of a review of the existing surveys on the issue, the ONS is examining the methods it uses to compile data on R&D, including how it samples businesses.

It is also planning to introduce statistics that show R&D activity at a regional level for the first time.

The ONS expects to take two years to put the changes into effect, with the new statistics due to be published in 2024, according to a blog post.

Writing in the blog, Heather Bovill, deputy director for surveys and economic indicators at the ONS, said: “Today is just the announcement of the plans for this important new chapter in research and development statistics. We will continue updating and engaging with our users throughout the development and begin to share analysis and insights from the transformed outputs later this year.  

“These plans support our wider transformation agenda across economic statistics, which has been taking place over recent years and will continue in years to come.  This transformation has involved identifying and utilising new data sources (such as real time tax data) introducing new and transforming existing surveys and improving our methods to ensure we can produce the best estimates of our ever-changing economy and society.”

Following the appointment of Liz Truss as prime minister, an advocacy group for science and engineering urged the new government to increase investment in R&D.

Sarah Main, executive director at the Campaign for Science and Engineering, asked the prime minister to look at investing 3% of GDP into R&D, “a level that would secure the UK’s place on the world stage”.