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MoD research spending overseas falls

The Ministry of Defence’s research and development spending with overseas-based organisations has dropped from 23 per cent of the total expenditure on R&D in 2009-10 to around 11 per cent in 2010-11.

The figure was disclosed in a parliamentary statement by Peter Luff, minister for defence equipment, support and technology, on 24 April.

Data (excluding small and medium-sized enterprises) show that the department’s R&D spending is increasingly focused on UK companies. Such larger companies, it says, accounted for 75 per cent of the spending in 2010-11 compared with 61 per cent of the total in 2009-10.

The figures show that MoD funding for the Defence, Science and Technology Laboratory dropped from about 16 per cent of the budget in 2009-10 to 14 per cent in 2010-11. The department spent less than one per cent of the budget with universities in both years.

Luff was responding to a question by Labour’s shadow business secretary, Chuka Umunna, who requested data on R&D spending, with and without the DSTL. He also requested information on expenditure on the defence technology company Qinetiq; UK universities; UK small and medium-sized enterprises; other UK companies; and overseas organisations.

Luff said some of the categories are not held centrally and could be provided only at “disproportionate cost”. He did not provide specific figures for SME companies or Qinetiq.

However, the MoD received criticism for its lack of involvement with small companies at a House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee hearing on bridging the ‘valley of death’ between basic research and commercial application on 24 April. Matthew Bullock, chairman of life-sciences company TAP biosystems, said the MOD has “resolutely refused to deal with small companies”.

Another written answer by Luff on 24 April revealed that the MoD’s total spend on R&D dropped from £1,752 million in 2009-10 to £1,560m in 2010-11.

The figures also show that most of the budget goes to “development” rather than research, which received £1,026m of 2010-11 expenditure and £1,177m of spending in 2009-10. Luff said this part of the budget is “mostly part of the department’s equipment programme applied as needed against the development requirements of individual projects”.

That left research expenditure—consisting mainly of the department’s science and technology programme under the chief scientific adviser—at £534m in 2010-11 and £575m in 2009-10.