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Estimates of total expenditure on research and development (R&D) across different market sectors by UK country and English region for 2020.

Main points

  • An estimated total of £1.5 billion was spent on R&D in 2020 in Wales; this was a decrease of £41 million (2.6%) compared with 2019. This decrease was largely a result of a fall in higher education R&D, down by £78 million (15.3%) over the year.
  • R&D expenditure in Wales represented 2.4% of total UK R&D expenditure.
  • Business enterprise R&D accounted for 69.9% of the total R&D expenditure in Wales, with higher education R&D accounting for 28.5%, and government R&D making up 1.6%.
  • In a small region such as Wales, the level of R&D expenditure can be influenced greatly by a small number of major projects commencing or ending, meaning the time series can be volatile.


This release provides estimates of R&D performed in, and funded by, the following four sectors of the UK economy:

  • Business enterprise R&D (BERD)
  • Higher education R&D (HERD)
  • Government, including UK Research and Innovation R&D (GovERD)
  • Private non-profit organisations R&D (PNPRD)

These sectors’ R&D data are known collectively as gross domestic expenditure on R&D (GERD).

A number of methodological improvements for BERD and HERD, as well as regular revisions to the survey data because of further validation, have been implemented for the 2018 period onwards. Comparisons of estimates for total R&D performed in the UK, and R&D performed in the business and higher education sectors before 2018 are not possible.

These figures provide the current best estimate of R&D at the UK level, but there is more uncertainty in the estimates below the UK and performing sector level. While the existing National Statistics designation for the total and performing sector level R&D figures will remain, to help further convey the uncertainty, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have asked the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) to temporarily pause the National Statistics status of the detailed breakdowns (including totals for Wales). OSR confirmed their agreement to this approach in their letter published on 21 November 2022 (Office for Statistics Regulation). This is until the further redevelopment takes place and there is more certainty on the distribution below the UK level.

Further information is available in the ONS release.

The detailed dataset on StatsWales will be updated to include these new data as soon as possible.



Joshua Cruickshank

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