Addressing the House of Commons yesterday, the Chancellor spoke about the importance of keeping Britain at the forefront of innovation.
In his Budget, Philip Hammond announced a £2.3billion investment in R&D and an additional £500million to be ploughed into artificial intelligence, 5G mobile networks and full fibre broadband.
“A new tech business is founded every hour and I want that to be every half hour,” he told MPs.
Inevitably there will be questions as to whether the Treasury’s support measures are sufficient.
Norman Lamb, the Lib Dem MP who chairs Parliament’s Science and Technology Committee, was among those to suggest that the investment wasn’t all it appeared.
“It becomes clear that R&D spend will actually only rise by £0.5 billion against current commitments for the year before [2020-21],” he said yesterday.
Initial feedback from manufacturers’ organisation the EEF was rather more favourable.
Lee Hopley, the trade body’s lead economist, said: “The Chancellor is putting real resource into delivering its target of 2.4 per cent of GDP on R&D over the next decade.
“The additional allocations from the National Productivity Investment Fund devoted to R&D and the increase R&D tax credit should help ensure the public and private sector are moving in tandem towards this important goal.
“The Chancellor has used some of his available leeway do what policy to reduce the risk of UK businesses being left in the wake of competitors’ technology advances and did so without tearing up the business tax road map, which provides some certainty on the path of Corporation Tax.”
Ms Hopley did, however, warn that downgrades in economic growth projections could take a toll on the industry and meant that the onus would be on the Treasury to continue to support innovation and business investment.
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