Yesterday (Wednesday 15 March), the Chancellor of the Exchequer delivered his Spring Budget to the House of Commons, laying out his fiscal plans for the next financial year.
As part of his statement, the Chancellor put words into action, pledging almost £3.5 billion to support the government’s ambitions to make the UK a scientific and technologic superpower. The funding announced will support the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology in delivering on the Prime Minister’s key priorities, including on growing the UK economy and creating better-paid jobs and opportunities for people in industries across the country.
The Chancellor also announced that the government will accept all recommendations of Sir Patrick Vallance’s review into regulating emerging digital technologies. This forms part of the government’s plans to develop the gold-standard for regulation in the technologies of tomorrow, providing a template capable of being adopted across the world.
The announcements in this week’s budget follows publication of the government’s Science and Technology Framework last week, backed by £370 million in new funding and projects that will help with ensuring the UK has the skills and infrastructure to take a global lead in game-changing technologies.
The money pledged by the Chancellor will be essential to achieving the framework’s goals of financing innovative science and technology start-ups across the UK, boosting investment in research and development and forging a pro-innovation culture throughout the UK’s public sector to improve public services.
Science, Innovation and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan said:
This week, we’ve shown that actions speak louder than words in our push to make the UK a science and technology superpower. We stepped in to protect the finances of our burgeoning tech sector over the weekend, set out our roadmap to regulate the industries of tomorrow and committed huge sums of investment in the Spring Budget.
When I launched this Department, I promised to ensure every lever of government was behind our plans to drive growth through science and innovation. Yesterday’s Budget shows that as a government, we are putting our money where our mouth is, backing the industries that will create jobs, provide the firepower to invest in our public services, and ultimately improve lives.
As part of extended plans to supercharge local growth across the country, the Chancellor announced plans to invest £100 million into 26 transformative R&D projects in Glasgow, Greater Manchester and West Midlands. The Innovation Accelerators programme is a new approach to supporting city regions to become major, globally competitive centres for research and innovation and will support levelling up.
Through the programme, local leaders will be empowered to harness innovation in support of regional economic growth through a pioneering a new model of R&D decision-making. Local government, business and R&D institutions have chosen 26 projects for the programme, including:
The UK has been a world-leader in quantum technologies for over a decade, and a new strategy has been launched to build on this progress. The strategy will bring new investment, fast-growing businesses and high-quality jobs to the UK, cementing its reputation as a top location to commercialise quantum. There is immense opportunity for quantum in the UK, already home to the largest number of quantum start-ups in Europe, and attracting more capital investment than any other country in Europe.
Within the strategy we will commit to providing public funding of £2.5 billion over the next 10-year phase of the national programme (2024 to 2034). This represents an increase in funding of around £150 million per annum. It should give the UK an ambitious and globally competitive programme that will be welcomed by the sector. The investment will support our goal to make the UK a science and technology superpower, building on our scientific excellence to drive growth and helping to build a strong and resilient economy and society.
Sue Daley, Director of Tech and Innovation at techUK, said:
The commercialisation of quantum technologies will play a key role in the UK’s ambition to be a global science and technology superpower. That is why it’s encouraging to see the National Quantum Strategy incorporate recommendations from techUK’s Quantum Commercialisation report and allocate £2.5 billion in funding for crucial steps including skills, procurement, market development and responsible innovation.
With the right collaboration industry and government can turn the UK’s current success in quantum research into a world-leading position in quantum commercialisation.
The government remains committed to supporting R&D and recognises the important role that R&D and innovation play for the economy and society. From 1 April 2023, the government will introduce an increased rate of relief for loss-making R&D intensive Small and Medium size Enterprises (SMEs). Eligible companies will receive £27 from HMRC for every £100 of R&D investment.
Steve Bates OBE, CEO of BioIndustry Association said:
This is a huge boost for biotech companies across the UK developing new medicines and improving healthcare for patients. Our research-intensive industry is a key growth area for Britain’s economy. The Chancellor is rightly focusing UK taxpayer support to enable life science entrepreneurs to crowd in more private investment, help keep the UK at the cutting-edge of international science, and create new high-value jobs across the UK.
A new approach to AI regulation, focusing on the applications of AI rather than setting rigid rules for products with an AI component, will be set out in a forthcoming AI White Paper. The new approach will drive business confidence, promote investment, boost public trust and ultimately drive productivity across the economy.
A new AI sandbox will also be launched, serving as a one-stop shop to test how regulation could be applied to the future of AI, while supporting innovators in getting their cutting-edge products to market without being blocked by the usual rules. The government will also begin working at pace to lead the way in clarifying the application of intellectual property law regarding generative AI.
The Chancellor also confirmed around £900 million in investment into a new ‘exascale’ supercomputer and a dedicated AI Research Resource. Exascale computers are the next frontier in computing, and the system being funded will be several times more powerful than the UK’s existing top supercomputers.
This funding will provide a significant uplift in the UK’s computing capacity and will allow researchers to understand climate change, power the discovery of new drugs and maximise potential in AI – making breakthroughs that will benefit everyone in society and the economy. The UK will become one of only a handful of countries in the world to host an exascale computer, attracting the best talent and ensuring researchers have access to the best infrastructure in the world.
The budget also committed to ensuring the UK is ahead of the curve on the future of web technology and maximising the potential of Web3. Web3 are the plans for a future iteration of the internet, that embraces decentralisation, open-source applications and blockchain computing architecture.
The Budget also confirmed that the government will award a £1 million prize every year for the next 10 years for the best research into AI. It will be called the ‘Manchester Prize’, named after the world’s first stored-programme computer build at the University of Manchester in 1948, and it will allow a broad range of participants to enter, to help groups / individuals outside traditional research / grant structures receive funding and access to networks, and. The prize will be administered by DSIT, and we will provide more details in due course.
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