1. Methodology background


 National 
 Statistic 
No
 Survey 
 name 
UK government expenditure on science, engineering and technology
 Frequency  Annual
 How 
 compiled 
Estimates are derived from the Government Research and Development Survey (GovERD), which is a census survey. UK government departments, including research councils and Higher Education Funding Councils (HEFCs), are contacted to establish their department’s structure and whether they conduct and/or fund research and development and knowledge transfer activities. This ensures the correct respondents receive the survey. Additional estimates of indicative contributions to the EU research and development expenditure are provided by Her Majesty’s Treasury.
 Geographic 
 coverage 
UK (country and region)
 Sample 
 size 
The Government Research and Development Survey (GovERD) is a census of all UK government departments. There are approximately 140 including agencies, seven research councils, four Higher Education Funding Councils (HEFCs, including the Northern Ireland Department of Finance (DoF)), civil departments and the Ministry of Defence.
 Last 
 revised 
13 June 2017

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2. Summary

Summary of important quality information you need to know before using these data.

The UK government expenditure on science, engineering and technology (SET) Quality and Methodology Information (QMI) report contains further information on:

  • the strengths and limitations of the data and how it compares with related data
  • uses and users
  • how the output was created
  • the quality of the output including the accuracy of the data
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3. Important points about science, engineering and technology data

  • The Government Research and Development Survey (GovERD) produces estimates of UK government expenditure on science, engineering and technology (SET).
  • SET data provide total UK government expenditure on performing research and development, purchased or funding research and development, total employment, sources of funds for research and development, and expenditure on knowledge transfer.
  • Research and development is defined as “creative and systematic work undertaken in order to increase the stock of knowledge – including knowledge of humankind, culture and society – and to devise new applications of available knowledge.”
  • Estimates are shown in current or constant prices; current prices (also known as nominal or cash) are expressed in terms of the prices of the time period being estimated), while constant prices (also known as real terms) are adjusted to remove the effects of inflation by fixing the prices of goods and services in one period (the base year), so that only the volumes change.
  • Data are available dating back to 1986.
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4. Overview

The main purpose of the Government Research and Development Survey (GovERD) is to supply estimates of UK government expenditure on science, engineering and technology (SET).

There are numerous users within and outside government who use the estimates to produce various analyses and to inform policy decisions. The primary use of SET estimates is for UK policy purposes. The in-house research and development element of the SET estimates are also provided to Eurostat to comply with the European Commission (EC) Regulation. These estimates are used by policymakers in the UK and EU, as research and development expenditure is perceived as an important determinant of economic growth.

Estimates contained in the SET statistical bulletin differ from those for the government sector contained in the UK gross domestic expenditure on research and development (GERD) statistical bulletin. The GERD bulletin only includes estimates of expenditure on research and development performed “in-house”, that is, by organisations themselves, whereas SET estimates also include expenditure on externally purchased and/or funded research and development, as well as taking account of funding received for research and development.

For the purpose of SET statistics, UK government expenditure on SET consists of:

  • expenditure on in-house research and development, purchased research and development and other funding provided to external organisations for research and development
  • indicative UK contributions to the EU’s research and development expenditure
  • knowledge transfer activities (including technology transfers) associated with research and experimental development, and contribute to the dissemination and application of scientific and technical knowledge

Research and development and related concepts follow internationally agreed standards defined by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and published in the Frascati Manual 2015.

This report stipulates the methodology and defines concepts for collecting and using statistics about research and development in countries that are members of the OECD. Research and experimental development comprise as creative and systematic work undertaken in order to increase the stock of knowledge – including knowledge of humankind, culture and society – and to devise new applications of available knowledge. Research and development must contain an appreciable amount of novelty.

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5. Output quality

This report provides a range of information that describes the quality of the output and details any points that should be noted when using the output.

We have developed guidelines for measuring statistical quality; these are based upon the five European Statistical System (ESS) quality dimensions. This report addresses these quality dimensions and other important quality characteristics, including:

  • relevance
  • timeliness and punctuality
  • coherence and comparability
  • accuracy
  • output quality trade-offs
  • assessment of user needs and perceptions
  • accessibility and clarity

More information is provided about these quality dimensions in this report.

The largest component of science, engineering and technology (SET) expenditure is the research and development (R&D) expenditure by UK government departments (both civil and defence), research councils and Higher Education Funding Councils (HEFCs), as defined in the Frascati Manual.

The UK government has seven publicly-funded research councils responsible for supporting, co-ordinating and promoting research, innovation and skills development in seven distinct fields. These cover the full spectrum of academic disciplines from the medical and biological sciences to the arts and humanities. Research Councils UK (RCUK) is the strategic partnership of the UK’s research councils. Also, the UK government manages research institutes and laboratories via several government departments, most notably the Department of Health (DH), the National Health Service (NHS), the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Department for International Development (DFID). The variety of research ranges from space exploration to research into mental health.

SET statistics were published on our website as official statistics for the first time on 11 July 2014. Until 2013 they were published by BEIS (previously known as the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills)

SET statistics consist of:

  • expenditure on in-house (intramural) R&D, purchased R&D or other funding provided to external organisations for R&D (extramural)
  • indicative UK contributions to the EU’s R&D expenditure
  • knowledge transfer activities (including technology transfers) associated with research and experimental development, and contribute to the dissemination and application of scientific and technical knowledge

The SET publication used to include data tables referring to the personnel associated with scientific and technical postgraduate education and training, and are sourced from our Labour Force Survey. From the publication of 2016 estimates in 2017, going forward these estimates have been included in the UK gross domestic expenditure on research and development (GERD) statistical bulletin.

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6. About the output

Relevance

(The degree to which the statistical outputs meet users’ needs.)

What it measures

Science, engineering and technology (SET) estimates are compiled from the Government Research and Development Survey (GovERD), which collects estimates of all UK government departments’ research and development (R&D) expenditure in the UK and abroad.

The published SET variables are detailed estimates of government departments’ expenditure on R&D, including knowledge transfer and contributions to EU R&D expenditure.

They are produced in both current prices and constant prices (adjusted to remove the effects of inflation using the gross domestic product (GDP) deflator). This allows changes in government expenditure on SET to be examined on a comparable basis over time.

Knowledge transfer activities (including technology transfers) are activities designed to help the conveyance of ideas, research, results and skills between researchers, businesses and wider communities. These actions contribute to the dissemination and application of scientific and technical knowledge, including consultancy services, demonstration projects, and sharing information. For example, developing partnerships, establishing forums for knowledge exchange, specialist training, and licensing. As well as being included in the total estimates of SET expenditure in the data tables, they are separately identified in Tables 5 and 6.

It is unknown where and how UK contributions to EU R&D expenditure are spent, so these estimates are not regarded as R&D performed in the UK.

Estimates of indicative UK contributions to EU R&D expenditure are provided by HM Treasury. EU member states’ contributions are not made to individual expenditure programmes, but to the EU budget as a whole. They are therefore referred to as indicative estimates.

It is important to note that estimates of R&D in the SET bulletin are on a net expenditure basis and therefore are net of funding received.

Distinctions between SET and GERD

The main distinctions between SET and gross domestic expenditure on research and development (GERD) are:

  • UK GERD includes only in-house (intramural) R&D expenditure, that is, the R&D performed by organisations themselves, and includes all sectors of the UK economy
  • SET comprises all UK government expenditure on in-house R&D, purchased R&D and other funding provided to external organisations for R&D (both within the UK and overseas); as a result, the estimate of the R&D component of the UK government’s expenditure on SET has been significantly larger than the value of R&D performed by the government sector – for example, the UK government sector reported net expenditure on R&D in the SET 2014 bulletin, which was approximately four-times larger than the value of in-house R&D performed by the government sector
  • SET additionally contains two components other than R&D that are not included in GERD, namely the UK’s indicative contributions to EU R&D expenditure budget and knowledge transfer

Frequency

The publication is annual.

These official statistics were previously published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial strategy (BEIS) (previously known as the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS)) in September each year. By publishing the SET statistical bulletin in June, we have enabled access to these estimates three months earlier.

Sample size

GovERD is a census of all UK government departments. There are approximately 140 departmental responders including agencies, seven research councils, four Higher Education Funding Councils (HEFCs), including the Department for Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland (DELNI), civil departments and the Ministry of Defence.

There are approximately 58 responders to the survey, as some agencies report together.

Periods available

SET estimates are available from 1986. Government department estimates relate to the financial year.

Sample frame

UK government departments, including research councils and HEFCs, are contacted to establish their department’s structure and whether they carried out and/or fund R&D activities in the survey period. This ensures that the correct respondents receive the survey.

A reference list of departments is updated annually prior to the survey despatch. Sources that are used to keep the frame up to date include government websites like the UK Parliament website, the main UK government website and the Cabinet Office. Each department is contacted two months before the survey despatch date to check its structure and to confirm contact details.

Weighting and estimation

There is no weighting as GovERD is a census survey.

The target response rate is 95% for the largest departments and 90% for the remainder. Future estimates provided on previous surveys are used to estimate data individually for any non-responding government departments.

Users and uses

The primary use of SET estimates is to monitor government investment in science and technology in the UK and inform policy decisions. The R&D element is considered an important determinant of economic growth and is used internationally as well as being provided to Eurostat to comply with European Commission (EC) Regulation 995/2012.

There are numerous users within and outside government who use dataset estimates to produce various analyses and inform policy decisions, which are detailed in this section.

European Union’s Statistical Office (Eurostat) – the UK provides statistics measuring R&D activity in accordance with the European Commission Regulation No. 995/2012 of the European Parliament and the council. The estimates in this publication are used to provide information that is consistent with other EU member states and to enable benchmarking to be achieved. Europe 2020 targets for economic growth include 3% of the EUs’ GDP (both private and publicly-funded) to be invested in R&D by 2020. This means that these estimates are essential in monitoring progress towards this target.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) use SET estimates for constructing internationally comparable data tables and producing regular statistical publications such as the Main Science and Technology Indicators (MSTI). These data are also used for analytical studies, which underpin economic analyses and policy reviews.

HM Treasury – SET statistics are growing in prominence and attracting more interest as an economic measure.

BEIS use SET estimates to assess policy impact and inform debate.

The Welsh Government (WG), Scottish Government (SG) and the Department for Employment and Learning, Northern Ireland (DELNI) use SET data as an important indicator for measuring the performance of their respective economies within the UK, as well as to monitor and develop R&D policies that seek to increase R&D investment.

The Research and Development Society is a UK-based organisation formed to promote the better understanding of R&D in all its forms. Its members include representatives from industry, government departments and agencies, universities and consultants. The Research and Development Society makes use of SET data, as a main source of information, for understanding how much is being invested in R&D on an annual basis and to inform wider debates.

Timeliness and punctuality

(Timeliness refers to the lapse of time between publication and the period to which the data refer. Punctuality refers to the gap between planned and actual publication dates.)

SET statistics were previously published annually by BEIS (formerly BIS) in September. We published the SET statistical bulletin for the first time on 11 July 2014, covering for the 2012 estimates.

For more details on related releases, the GOV.UK release calendar is available online and provides 12 months’ advance notice of release dates. If there are any changes to the pre-announced release schedule, public attention will be drawn to the change and the reasons for the change will be explained fully at the same time, as set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

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7. How the output is created

Data collection

Government departments are sent an Excel-based questionnaire via Secure Electronic File Transfer (SEFT). They are provided with detailed notes that accompany the Government Research and Development Survey (GovERD) to ensure that they adhere to the Frascati Manual definitions of research and development (R&D). The completed questionnaires are returned to us also via SEFT. Research councils and Higher Education Funding Councils (HEFCs) are included in the GovERD survey and their expenditure is shown separately in the published data tables.

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8. Validation and quality assurance

Accuracy

(The degree of closeness between an estimate and the true value.)

Sampling error

The Government Research and Development Survey (GovERD), which collects the science, engineering and technology (SET) data, is an annual census and is therefore not subject to sampling errors.

Non-sampling error

Non-sampling errors are not easy to quantify and include errors of coverage, measurement, processing, and non-response. There is some difficulty in identifying the population of actual or likely research and development (R&D) performers and also problems in ensuring that government departments adhere to the Frascati Manual R&D definitions. However, response rates are high and response bias minimised due to questionnaire design reviews.

Revisions

SET estimates are revised in accordance with our Revision Policy. The majority of revisions are due to misreporting and the late receipt of data; GovERD estimates can be revised for long periods if there is substantial misreporting. This will then impact on SET and the UK gross domestic expenditure on R&D (GERD), which contains R&D expenditure in the UK for all sectors of the economy, including businesses, higher education, non-profit organisations as well as UK government departments.

Coherence and comparability

(Coherence is the degree to which data that are derived from different sources or methods, but refer to the same topic, are similar. Comparability is the degree to which data can be compared over time and domain, for example, geographic level.)

SET is one publication that relates to R&D expenditure, which we publish annually. The others are:

Statistics at Ministry of Defence provides professional analytical, economic and statistical services and advice to the Ministry of Defence (MOD), and defence-related statistics to Parliament, other government departments and the public.

Government departments are provided with detailed notes, which accompany the GovERD survey, to ensure that they adhere to the Frascati Manual definitions of R&D.

The main impact on the comparability of the SET data over time is the change of responsibilities within government departments, which can occur due to changes in government following a general election, or the introduction of new or changed policies. Responsibility for R&D expenditure on specific projects can transfer between different departments, which can impact historical comparisons. Detailed notes on these changes are included in the data table footnotes in the publications.

Caution should therefore be taken when examining departmental time series, due to machinery of government changes.

The SET estimates have the status of official statistics as they have not been assessed by the UK Statistics Authority.

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9. Concepts and definitions

(Concepts and definitions describe the legislation governing the output, and a description of the classifications used in the output.)

Research and development (R&D) activity is distinguished by the presence of an appreciable element of novelty. If the activity follows an established pattern it is excluded; if it departs from routine and breaks new ground it is included. For example, activities such as routine testing, market research, patent applications, trial production runs and artistic work are excluded. Overheads of R&D projects are included. Value Added Tax (VAT) is excluded.

The updated Frascati manual introduced in 2015 included five new important criteria to help determine whether an activity should be regarded as R&D, for the purposes of R&D surveys that contribute to GERD. These criteria are that R&D work should be all of the following:

  • novel – new findings that support new concepts, products and processes
  • creative – original and not obvious
  • uncertain – the final outcome cannot be predicted
  • systematic – to be planned, budgeted and outcomes documented
  • transferable or reproducible – to lead to results that could be reproduced

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) terminology is used throughout the statistical bulletin. “Government” corresponds to the “general government” sector of the national accounts and includes local as well as central government.

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10. Other information

Output quality trade-offs

(Trade-offs are the extent to which different dimensions of quality are balanced against each other.)

In addition to being analysed by individual government departments, science, engineering and technology (SET) statistics may be analysed by type of research, the primary purpose and socio-economic objective of the research, and in which sector the expenditure is destined to be performed.

Assessment of user needs and perceptions

(The processes for finding out about uses and users, and their views on the statistical products.)

New data tables, 14 and 15, were introduced in the 2014 SET statistical bulletin, to give more detailed breakdowns of the flows of funds between departments, and to show how SET estimates relate to those in the UK gross domestic expenditure on research and development (GERD) bulletin. These tables were developed to meet user needs.

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11. Sources for further information or advice

Accessibility and clarity

(Accessibility is the ease with which users are able to access the data, also reflecting the format in which the data are available and the availability of supporting information. Clarity refers to the quality and sufficiency of the release details, illustrations and accompanying advice.)

Our recommended format for accessible content is a combination of HTML web pages for narrative, charts and graphs, with data being provided in usable formats such as CSV and Excel. We also offer users the option to download the narrative in PDF format. In some instances other software may be used, or may be available on request. Available formats for content published on our website but not produced by us, or referenced on our website but stored elsewhere, may vary. For further information please refer to the contact details at the beginning of this report.

For information regarding conditions of access to data, please refer to these links:

In addition to this Quality and Methodology Information, basic quality information relevant to each release is available in the relevant statistical bulletin.

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