Press release

Extra £4 million ONS funding to help boost understanding of the new economy

The additional funding will help the ONS measure changes in the modern digital economy.


The Treasury is providing £4 million of additional funding to the ONS so that we continue to have world-leading statistics that capture what is happening in the modern economy.

This brings investment to-date to £16 million, and will allow the ONS to:

  • develop new ways to measure the Sharing Economy and inflation, for example by trawling the internet for price changes
  • fund improvements to the measurement of the labour market, trade, productivity and GDP in the face of rapid technological change via the Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence
  • roll out new PhDs and apprenticeship places for the next-generation of data scientists
  • improve coverage of the services sector, on financial links across the economy and the breakdown of the UK’s trade around the world

The modern digital economy is harder to measure than the goods based economy of the past. The ONS is working hard to further understand the changes. The rapid rate of technological innovation, free services for consumers and major intangible investments by businesses all create challenges for the ONS, which this funding will help address.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Elizabeth Truss said:

We are boosting our understanding of the Britain’s dynamic, go-getting companies that are driving productivity forward. From TransferWise to Deliveroo, disruptors are offering profoundly new services and shaking things up.

We want to understand their impact on the economy, as together we build a country that works for everyone.

National Statistician, John Pullinger said:

Today’s announcement will greatly help ONS meet the challenges of measuring new forms of economic activity and give policy makers better insights into the UK economy.

The Data Science Campus is already allowing us to interpret many new and exciting forms of data and the Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence provides a crucial link to harness the internationally-renowned expertise of our universities.

The new investment will also help ONS to build on recent innovations, such as the inclusion of the latest VAT information from thousands of UK business’ into official figures. New projects in the pipe line or already delivered better measurement of wages, trade in services, productivity and the digital economy.

What has the ONS already delivered?

The government commissioned Professor Sir Charles Bean to carry out an Independent Review of UK Economic Statistics. This review reported in March 2016 with recommendations for how the ONS should adapt to an increasingly digital world. The government responded at the time. This new funding will continue to deliver on the Bean Review’s recommendations. Since 2016 the ONS has:

  • established an Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence, bringing together academics and policymakers to deliver cutting edge research on how to measure the modern, digital economy
  • established a Data Science Campus to harness the power of ‘Big Data’, particularly to improve real-time indicators of economic activity
  • continued to develop ONS’s existing statistics, for instance through the inclusion of VAT data in GDP, which increases the number of small and medium-sized businesses sampled each month to over 600,000
  • improved trade statistics, with substantially more country and commodity breakdowns in both goods and services
  • significant productivity insights including company and regional level analysis
  • improved the ONS’s analytical capability, including through expanding the number of economists in the ONS workforce to over 100

What the government is doing for the economy

We will improve our productivity by embracing new technologies, investing in skills and infrastructure, and helping businesses create better, higher-paying jobs. We are delivering an ambitious Industrial Strategy and:

  • increasing the National Productivity Investment Fund to £31 billion as well as increasing R&D spending by the largest amount for 40 years
  • establishing the UK as a world-leader in emerging technology such as A.I. and driverless cars while reforming technical education and re-training
Published 16 May 2018