Despite the UK Government’s emphasis on R&D for post-Brexit Britain, Wales is falling behind on three key indicators because of “the Welsh Labour Government’s failure to foster innovation and a higher wage economy”, according to the Welsh Conservatives.
Statistics released by the Office for National Statistics today show Wales has the lowest R&D expenditure of the UK nations at £146 per head. This compares to £386 in England, £274 in Northern Ireland, and £230 in Scotland.
Although expenditure on research and development performed in Welsh businesses rose by 3.9% last year compared to 2016, it lags behind the UK average of 4.9% and the £457m spent is less than half of the figure in Scotland and lower than Northern Ireland, despite having a larger population.
Wales employed 6,000 full-time equivalents in performing R&D, lower than each of the UK nations and eight of the nine English regions (the North East being the exception).
In 2017, the UK Government committed to meet a target of 2.4% of GDP invested in UK R&D by 2027 and a longer-term goal of 3% as part of its Industrial Strategy “reinforcing the UK’s commitment to our world-leading science, research and innovation sectors”.
Meanwhile, the Welsh Government’s Economic Action Plan makes only three brief references to R&D, with no detail on spending or strategy.
The news comes shortly after average earnings in Wales were revealed to be lower and having grown slower than other UK nations in the last year, and all but one English region.
It was also revealed today the UK Government borrowed the smallest sum since 2005 in the last year, while debt as a percentage of GDP had fallen by 4% compared to 12 months ago.
Commenting, Leader of the Welsh Conservatives Paul Davies AM, said:
“Wales is lagging behind elsewhere in the UK and that is simply down to the Welsh Labour Government not pulling its weight to develop an R&D strategy.
“This is obvious in the lack of detail concerning R&D in their headline Economic Action Plan and these statistics show Wales is not fulfilling its potential as a research and innovation hub.
“As the wage gap between Wales and the UK expands year-on-year, it becomes very clear that the Welsh Labour Government’s inadequate approach to this area of policy is holding our nation back from replicating the economic successes seen in other parts of the UK.”