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Friday, 17 November, 2000, 19:34 GMT
Boom in research into high-tech ships
Welder in shipyard
UK shipbuilders: bright sparks
Further evidence of the revival of UK shipbuilding has emerged in data showing research into high-tech vessels rose five times in two years.

Spending on industrial R&D into new and upgraded ships reached 76m last year, the Office for National Statistics said on Friday.

The figure two years ago was 15m, the ONS report showed.

Publication of the data comes as Cammell Laird looks set to build the first cruise liner in the UK in 25 years, and a month after three UK yards won 1bn in military contracts.

Low base

But the ONS warned against reading too much into Friday's data.

Leading industrial research sectors
Pharmaceuticals: 2.54bn
Aerospace: 1.24bn
Motor: 1.06bn
Radio, TV, comms: 0.87bn
Chemicals: 0.72bn

Figs for 1999

"The figure is coming from a low base, so any new project is going to have an impact," ONS statistician Robert Hay told BBC News Online.

"But there are a number of projects which may have contributed to the rise."

Overall spending on R&D in UK firms rose to 9.63bn in 1999, a 10% rise on the year before, the figures show.

Jobs boost

Taking inflation into account, commercial laboratories and testing stations received 10% more cash in 1999 than two years before, and employed 16% more scientists, engineers and technicians.

Drug giants were the premier industrial researchers, accounting for one fifth of the total R&D undertaken by UK businesses.

Spending on the development of telecoms equipment showed a strong increase, more than offsetting a decline in research spending on office computers.

"The figures suggest that UK firms are concentrating more on developing how information is delivered, and at the software end, than looking at hardware," Mr Hay said.

Farm research up

Other sectors showing strong growth in R&D investment last year included motor parts, plastics and rubbers, and agriculture, where spending rose 50% in three years.

UK shipbuilders even in the 1950s made half the world's ships.

But the industry's decline, particularly in the 1960s and 1970s, has left output at about 1% of the global total.

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See also:

02 Nov 00 | Business
UK cruise liner first in 25 years
31 Oct 00 | Scotland
Ferry contract for shipyard
26 Oct 00 | Business
New shipyard contracts top 1bn
05 Oct 00 | Scotland
Shipbuilder clinches 17m contract
15 Dec 99 | Business
Yards staying afloat
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