John Downes, Chief Executive Officer of Langtree and Chairman of Sci-Tech Daresbury, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the fact that cutting edge science and technology is not only crucial to our collective wellbeing, but also a means to create the evenly balanced economic prosperity and growth we all want for our country.
“It has consequently been deeply encouraging to see the Government recognise this through a series of announcements and initiatives. The unveiling of the R&D Roadmap last summer rightly identified innovation as being key to the UK’s future on the global stage while the formation of the Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA) was also a very welcome move.
“However, I believe this Budget offers the Chancellor a valuable opportunity to consider how the government can deploy one of its major policy strands – support for R&D – to address another: the levelling up agenda. Some steps have already been taken regarding this such as the UK Space Agency’s space hub programme. This will see the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), through its Daresbury Laboratory at Sci-Tech Daresbury lead the project on behalf of the North West. Yet there is more to be done, and further regional investment will go some way to helping the Government reach its target of 2.4% of GDP being invested in R&D.
“That target represents a real opportunity to address the inequalities that the pandemic has magnified. While the whole country has taken an unprecedented hit, areas such as our own Liverpool City Region have suffered disproportionately. Nonetheless, throughout the difficulties of the past year, the excellence of our cutting edge businesses have served as a beacon of hope.
“At Sci-Tech Daresbury, we welcomed just under thirty new tenants in 2020 and many of our existing tenants expanded and created valuable new employment opportunities. Some of the new companies are international arrivals, some are from the South East and London, looking to take advantage of the exceptional infrastructure we have in the North West.
“The above cocktail of regionally located government programmes, northshoring businesses and local SMEs scaling up means that the overall success of each project is not just felt in the City Region, but the entire country. Likewise, by building new office and lab space, along with further scientific facilities and associated infrastructure to address the ongoing demand, we’re not just serving businesses in our sectors but also creating job opportunities for the construction industry and their wider supply chains.
“We applaud the Government’s recent focus on supporting state-of-the-art science and technology, and in this budget would encourage the Chancellor to announce further policies – such as increased R&D tax incentives for both large corporations and SMEs – in order to help our dynamic businesses flourish. As part of the launch of ARIA, we would also welcome further clarification on how the new organisation will help address the current regional imbalance in research and innovation activity, and what packages can be developed to enhance collaborations between private businesses, academia and other key regional stakeholders.
“We would also welcome further steps to help encourage greater investment into these innovative SME businesses that will be critical to our economic recovery through greater tax incentives for investors in the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) and Enterprise Investment Schemes (EIS) schemes, as well as maximising the synergy possible between grant funding and equity investment as Innovate UK have taken steps to do in recent times.
“The importance of our cutting edge science and technology businesses to the future success of our country cannot be underestimated, and we ask the Government to be bold in supporting them at this Budget.”