28/11/2003

NI R&D jobs on the increase

Figures released on Friday for the Northern Ireland region show that there were 2,590 employees in businesses working in the area of research and development (R&D) in 2002, an increase of 4.5% compared with 2001.

Welcoming the new data which is the Northern Ireland element of an annual UK survey carried out by the Office of National Statistics, Ian Pearson, MP, NIO Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment said: "Figures released this morning show that total expenditure on research and development was some £273 million in 2002, of which nearly £157 million was spent by businesses, £106 million by the Universities with the remainder accounted for by other government expenditure.

"The number of companies spending over £1 million on R&D has increased by nearly one third from 19 in 2001 to 25 in 2002."

Noting the fairly static nature of R&D expenditure between 2001 and 2002, the Minister said: "While the current picture shows R&D expenditure is relatively flat in real terms, it should be recognised that Northern Ireland has made huge progress in recent years and business R&D is over 40% higher than in 1999."

The Minister emphasised the importance of R&D for economic growth in Northern Ireland. He added: "All companies, irrespective of size, must pay attention to developing their future potential by using innovation as an engine for growth. Developing a vibrant innovation economy is vital if Northern Ireland is to generate future employment growth.

"The universities can also play a vital role in fostering technological innovation in Northern Ireland and it is important that the employment potential in this area is realised fully by working in partnership with other businesses in developing new products and ways of working."

The Minister acknowledged that, historically, Northern Ireland’s R&D spend is low relative to the UK, the Republic of Ireland and the European Union.

He said: "Northern Ireland business R&D expenditure as a proportion of GVA in 2001 at 0.79% was only around half the UK average of 1.45%. However, Northern Ireland’s proportion was higher than five other UK regions in 2001, including Scotland and Wales."

The 10 biggest spending companies accounted for over 60% of R&D in Northern Ireland.

(MB)

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