Belfast Telegraph

R&D spending grows by 24% to hit £750m in all-time high for Northern Ireland

By Margaret Canning

Spending on research and development in Northern Ireland is at an-all time high after climbing by 24% to reach around £749.7m, figures have shown.

The rate of growth between 2014 and 2015 was the highest increase of any UK region.

The increase in outlay on research and development by private sector business accounted for 90% of the rise.

But government - a category which includes bodies such as the AFBI - spent 6% less on the area during the period, amounting to a fall of £1m.

The survey of spending in 2015 added that the growth in the outlay may be down to the influence of one or two major projects by big companies.

The 10 biggest-spending firms accounted for 46% of the total research and development spend, and externally owned companies accounted for approximately two-thirds of total spending.

Large research and development projects have been carried out by a number of local firms, including medical diagnostics company Randox, bus manufacturer Wrights Group and pharmaceuticals producer Almac.

Economy Minister Simon Hamilton said: "I am very encouraged by these latest figures. Investment in research and development is critical to future economic growth.

"With expenditure up by 24% and the number of firms, particularly indigenous firms, spending on research and development increasing from 659 to 714, this is a move in the right direction and something I want to further encourage.

"We are only at the start of our journey, having come through the downturn and made significant strides forward in re-balancing our economy. Innovation in all its forms is central to this journey, and with some 90% of the latest increase in research and development expenditure coming from business in the private sector, I think we can feel confident that we are heading in the right direction."

Writing in Business Telegraph earlier this week, Kevin McCann, director of research and development at Invest NI, said: "There are many studies showing a solid link between investment in research and development, profitability and growth.

"Investing in research and development leads to benefits that can include not only increased sales, but also increased efficiency and productivity."

Wrights Group recently announced it was buying the former JTI Gallaher premises in Ballymena, where operations may include research and development. It also lent the name of co-founder William Wright to an advanced engineering centre at Queen's University.

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