R&D jobs at record level, but spending slips

Research and development (R&D) employment in Scottish businesses reached its highest level on record in 2015 with about 11,000 jobs — but R&D spending fell slightly during that year — according to new figures from the Scottish Government.

Despite the drastic improvement from a low base in R&D employment, Scotland still lags a long way behind the rest of the UK in business R&D spending, the figures showed.

The latest statistics on Business Enterprise Research and Development (BERD) said that despite the small fall year-on-year, business spending on R&D in Scotland has risen by 41% in real terms since 2007.

Enterprises in Scotland employed 10,985 R&D staff in 2015, up from 9,954 in 2014, an increase of 10.4%.

But BERD expenditure in Scotland in 2015 was £871 million, only 4.2% of the UK total of £20.9 billion.

Scottish BERD expenditure decreased by 0.8% in real terms compared to 2014 while UK expenditure increased by 4.9% in real terms over this period.

“Scotland has historically lagged behind the rest of the UK in business R&D spending,” said Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy Paul Wheelhouse.

“That we have now have the highest number of jobs on record in the sector is a sign that real progress is being made.

“This comes as part of a wider picture where, despite the change over the latest year, we have made progress in closing the R&D gap with the UK.”

BERD expenditure was 0.60% of Scottish GDP in 2015 compared to 1.1% for the UK.

In 2015, nearly two thirds (63.9%) of Scotland’s BERD expenditure was undertaken in just four local authority areas — City of Edinburgh (24.5%), West Lothian (16.2%), Aberdeen City (13.0%) and Glasgow City (10.2%).