A Stumble on the Road to £22bn? Key Messages from the UK Government’s Research & Development Budget Allocations

In this post, Sophie Lowry, Strategic Research Executive, summarises some of the main takeaways from the UK Government’s 2021/22 budget allocations for research and development.

The figure of £22bn has been heralded as the UK Government’s commitment for how much it is going to publicly spend on research and development by 2024/25.  We saw this figure mentioned in the March 2020 budget and in the UK Government’s R&D Roadmap published last summer.  The UK Government press release announcing the R&D budget allocations notes that UK public investment in R&D has risen about 13%, rising from £13.2bn in 2020/21 to £14.9bn in 2021/22. So what can we learn from the UK Government’s recent budget allocations for research and development for 2021/22?

DBEIS Budget

Delving a bit deeper into the detail, the overall R&D budget for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has increased £1.1bn from the last financial year.  The costs for the UK participating in Horizon Europe is included in this departmental budget as is the anticipated £50m for the new research funding agency, the Advanced Research & Invention Agency (ARIA) and a potential £20m (subject to business case approval) to help support the work of early career researchers who are financially supported by medical research charities.

UKRI Budget

The UKRI press release of its 2021/22 budget allocation confirm that its allocation is £403m less than its previous year’s allocation. This makes up about 5% of its overall budget and is primarily due to the reduction of £284m in its ODA budget. The table below summarises the allocation by council and budget in 2021/22.

UKRI allocations by council and budget 2021-2022
Image: taken from “2021/22 budget allocations for UK Research and Innovation” (page 7), UKRI (full information available on the UKRI website)

What’s next?

There are whispers in the R&D policy community that some long-term funding targets, including the promised £22bn, might be at risk given this year’s limited allocations.  Another Spending Review is anticipated next year and that may well be the one to watch given that the UK Government will need to confirm how it intends to complete what some may say is quite the uphill struggle from this year’s spend of £14.9bn on R&D to the promised spend of £22bn in 2024/25.

More Information

BEIS research and development (R&D) budget allocations 2021 to 2022 – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Our budget – UKRI

ERO Blog post: Thoughts on the UK Research and Development Roadmap (ed.ac.uk)

ERO Blog post: Making Sense of the UK’s New Proposed Research Funding Agency, the Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA)

ERO Briefing on the 2021/22 Research & Development Budget Allocations (UoE access only)

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Sophie Lowry

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