A report published by the Royal Society — the premier British scientific academy — today, points out that research and development expenditure by UK government departments (excluding the National Health Service and Ministry of Defence) is projected to be 52% lower, in real terms, in 2001–2002 than it was in 1986–1987.
The UK spent 1.8% of its gross domestic product on research and development in 1997, the most recent year for which figures are available.
"This figure means the UK is fifth among the G7 nations and is too low for a country trying to compete globally in a knowledge-driven economy," said Sir Aaron Klug, President of the Royal Society. "The proportion of UK research and development funded by Government fell from 35.4% in 1988 to 30.8% in 1997, and we now lag behind every other G7 country except Japan in this respect."
"The [UK] Spending Review settlements [to be announced 18 July] should provide government departments with the opportunity to arrest and reverse the damaging drop in expenditure on research and development," said Sir Aaron. "We welcome the major new funding already announced for buildings, laboratories and equipment, but the Government must also invest in people, who are the most important asset and output of the Science Base."