Spending on R&D for IT and telecommunications hit £2.6bn in 2009, almost 17% of total UK research spending, the Office for National Statistics said.
The ONS statistical bulletin on business enterprise R&D spending published on Wednesday found that total R&D spending dropped 2.5% to £15.6bn. This was 1.2% of GDP, in line with previous years.
Civilian R&D spending decreased by 1.4% to £13.7bn, while defence R&D slipped 10.2% to £1.9bn, the ONS said.
Pharmaceuticals led spending at £4.4bn, 28.4% of all spending, it said. This was followed by aerospace at £1.5bn (9.4%), computer and related activities at £1.5bn (9.3%), motor vehicles and parts at £1.1bn (7.3%) and telecommunications, which also reported £1.1bn (7.0%).
The ONS said the largest source of R&D funding was businesses' own funds at £10.1bn, 64.5% of the total. Foreign funds spent in the US on R&D came to £3.4bn, 21.4% of the total.
The UK government spent £1.2bn, 7.9% of the total, mainly in defence.
Research bodies made do with 1,000 fewer "full time equivalent" positions between 2008 and 2009. Scientists and engineers decreased by 1,000 to 85,000, which amounts to 55.8% of all staff employed in R&D. But the number of technicians rose by 3,000 while administrative staff decreased by 2,000.
Within civilian spending, manufacturing accounted for 71.4% of the total and services for 26.3%. Aerospace continued to be the largest contributor to defence R&D expenditure, followed by mechanical engineering and electrical machinery.
Almost 92% of all business R&D took place in England, with the East of England taking almost a quarter of funds, the South East 23.0% and the North West 13.1%.