New figures reveal 1,000 times more spent on research in the south

The Government has been accused of bias towards the south after new figures showed that London and the South East were given 1,000 times more research funding

Newcastle University
Newcastle University

The Government has been accused of bias towards the south after new figures showed that London and the South East were given 1,000 times more research funding from Whitehall than the North East.

The North East is spending the least of any region in the country on research and development, investing £542m compared to £6bn in the South East, £4.5bn in the east of England and £3.68bn in London.

Within those figures, spending by Government research agencies is particularly low in the North East at less than £1m. By contrast, the Government spends £793m on research in the South East and £323m in London – a combined figure of more than £1bn.

Two years ago, The Journal revealed that of the 107 people on the boards of the Government’s seven research councils, only one was from the North East.

Though that figure has since risen – to two – fears have been expressed that the region is being left behind as billions of pounds are funnelled instead to the “golden triangle” of Oxford, Cambridge and London.

Yesterday Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah, who was a leading scientist and engineer before entering Parliament, said: “All studies show a relationship between R&D spend and growth so this is critically important to the North East economy.

“Under the last government, One North East directed significant R&D funding in the North East, this Government reduced that fund and put what was left in the hands of the TSB based in Wiltshire and without, at that time, a single North East board member.

“North Easterners are still not well represented on research councils and it also seems that our local businesses are not spending as much on R&D as they should be. I hope that the LEP is working with BIS to help address that.

“But I’m afraid overall this shows a continuing bias towards the golden triangle of London Oxford and Cambridge at the expense of other regions.”

James Ramsbotham, chief executive of the North East Chamber of Commerce, said: “Our history and heritage demonstrates that we are a region of great innovators, but clearly more must be done to encourage companies and individuals to explore new products and services through research and development.

“The recession is one reason why many businesses will have scaled back spending on R&D, but as we’re seeing genuine signs of recovery I would expect that regional figure to improve.”

The figures from the Office of National Statistics show that research by businesses in the region is particularly low, only just exceeding a relatively high amount spent at the region’s five universities. In the South East, businesses spend four times as much on research and development as universities.

But there was some positive news with the fact that research and development spending at least grew in the North East between 2011 and 2012 by 5.7% while it fell in a number of other regions.

Nationally, Britain spent less as a proportion of national income on research and development than the rest of the EU in 2012 despite Government plans to use innovation to boost growth.

UK research and development spending overall fell 3% when adjusted for inflation, as both Government and business investment fell.

The Department of Business, Innovation and Research (BIS) did not respond to requests for comment from The Journal yesterday.

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