01/12/2008

Local Emphasis On Research & Development Improving

Cutting edge research is improving in Northern Ireland - but only just.

Total expenditure on Research and Development (R&D) has increased by 3.1%, to £351.1million in 2007.

This amount of expenditure represents a rise of £10.7million (3.1%) in real terms over the last year.

Of the £351.1million spent on R&D, £185.1million (52.7%) was spent by businesses, £151.3million (43.1%) by the Higher Education sector and the remainder was other Government expenditure.

Over the year to 2007 there was an increase in expenditure in real terms by businesses and government but a decrease in the higher education sector.

However, total business expenditure on R&D increased by 7.7% in real terms over the year from £171.8million in 2006 to £185.1million in 2007.

This was the first time in the last five years that business R&D expenditure exceeded the 2002 level of spend, in real terms.

It represents a real increase of 3.5% from the position in 2002 when such expenditure was £178.8million.

The manufacturing sector accounted for the majority (56.0%) of business R&D activity in 2007, although R&D expenditure in the sector fell (by 1.5%) over the year to £103.7million.

In contrast, there was a large increase in the services and 'other sectors', with R&D expenditure up over the year (by 31.9%) in cash terms to £81.4million.

Companies with ownership outside Northern Ireland continue to play an important role in financing R&D.

Externally owned companies accounted for 56.6% of such expenditure compared to 43.4% by locally owned companies.

Northern Ireland is still dependent on a relatively small number of companies for a considerable element of R&D expenditure.
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The 10 biggest spending companies accounted for 48.9% of the total R&D spend in Northern Ireland in 2007, higher than in 2006 (44.4%).

However, small and medium sized enterprises (enterprises with less than 250 employees) accounted for nearly two-thirds (63.3%) of business R&D expenditure.

Government R&D expenditure increased by £0.6million, (4.5%) over the year in real terms to £14.7million, whereas such expenditure by the higher education sector decreased by £3.2million (-2.1%) to £151.3million.

Commenting on the figures, Northern Ireland Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister, Arlene Foster said: "I welcome the continued rise in Research and Development (R&D) activity in 2007. While there have been significant changes in the global economy since then, it is vitally important that companies continue to prioritise R&D activity.

"Those companies that continue to invest in R&D, despite difficult trading conditions, will be best placed to exploit future opportunities. We must continue to extend the number of companies who devote resources to R&D and to make this an integral part of business culture in Northern Ireland.

"Innovation is an engine for growth, irrespective of the size of the company and improved products and services that are cost competitive will continue to attract market share.

"I am particularly keen to encourage local companies to seek opportunities to strengthen and exploit their R&D base."

Results from the rest of the UK are usually made available at the same time as the NI figures.

However, UK R&D figures have been postponed this year by the Office for National Statistics and will not be released until early 2009.

(BMcC/KMcA)


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