Telecoms sector leads R&D growth as UK shrugs off Brexit concerns

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Data from the ONS shows the telecoms sector is the fastest growing R&D spender as UK businesses "shrug off" Brexit concerns.

Telecoms companies in the UK increased their spending on research and development last year by £192 million to £947 million.

With a growth of 25.4 percent, R&D spending has reached a four-year high. However, analysis by R&D tax relief specialist Catax has found this is still below the spending high reached in 2007 of £1.5 billion.

Mark Tighe, chief executive of R&D tax relief specialists Catax, said:

“The telecoms industry is extremely important to the UK strategically and it is reassuring to see such growth in investment.

There is still some way to go if this investment is to recover to levels seen before the financial crash, however, and it is vital this happens if Britain is to continue to be a key technological player on the world stage."

Despite widespread concerns about Brexit, UK businesses continue to defy expectations with increasing R&D spending and record employment.

"More broadly, this is the second full year that Brexit Britain has shrugged off the political poison after the EU referendum and posted great gains in terms of R&D investment, running head and shoulders above the long-term average.

For the first time in history, a quarter of a million people nationwide are engaged full time in keeping the UK at the cutting edge. This is going to make a huge difference to Britain’s prospects outside the EU."

UK businesses across all sectors continue to increase R&D spending. The amount UK businesses invested in R&D last year increased by £1.4bn to £25bn (up 5.8%). Pharmaceuticals represent the largest product group with £4.5bn in R&D spending (up 3.3%).

Ranked by total R&D expenditure, other product groups reporting £1.0 billion or more were:

  • Computer programming and information services activities (excluding software development), £1.9 billion (7.8% of total R&D expenditure)

  • Aerospace, £1.7 billion (6.8%)

  • Miscellaneous business activities; technical testing and analysis, £1.7 billion (6.8%)

  • Software development, £1.5 billion (6.1%)

  • Research and development services, £1.3 billion (5.1%)

  • Machinery and equipment, £1.0 billion (4.1%)

Employment also continues to surge, rising 7.3 percent annually to exceed 250,000 full-time equivalents for the first time.

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