Glasshouse At Alderley Park Crop
Bruntwood SciTech's Glasshouse, a £30m project aimed at digital and tech companies at the Alderley Park campus

BUDGET 2020 | Gov’t to double investment in science and tech

Sarah Townsend and Chloé Vaughan

The Chancellor pledged to increase research spending in the technology and low-carbon sectors, including plans to build “at least two” carbon capture and storage facilities in areas such as Merseyside by 2030.

The Government will more than double national R&D spend to £22bn per year by 2024-2025, the highest level in almost 40 years, and with an immediate funding boost of £400m for 2020, Sunak said, as he unveiled his Budget for the five years to 2025.

In particular, the Government will establish pioneering carbon capture and storage plants – like some of the facilities being set up at Peel Environmental’s Protos science park near Ellesmere Port – in at least two UK sites, one by the mid-2020s and one by 2030.

“The new clusters will create up to 6,000 jobs in areas like Teesside, Humberside and Merseyside,” Sunak said in his speech to the House of Commons.

The new facilities will be supported by the creation of a new £800m CCS Infrastructure Fund, with budgets to be finalised at the Comprehensive Spending Review later this year, Sunak said.

The Government will also provide an immediate funding boost of £400m over 2020-21 for universities and other academic institutions to help pay for world-leading research, equipment and infrastructure.

A further £800m will be invested in establishing a ‘blue skies’ research funding agency for the UK, modelled on the US’ Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy, or ARPA.

Phil Kemp, chief executive of Bruntwood SciTech, a joint venture between Manchester-based developer Bruntwood and fund manager Legal & General, said: “More than doubling spending on research and development through the creation of our own ARPA gives the UK the legitimacy to call itself the most attractive home for the finest minds from across the globe to flock to.

“As mentioned by the chancellor, the question now comes down to where this additional budget should be spent. Much will be given to universities and public bodies to boost their research and training facilities.

“But it’s vital this is spread around the whole of the UK, supporting its leading science and technology sectors and emerging innovation districts in the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine.

“The announcement will be welcomed with open arms by the public and private sectors, but now the challenge lies in spending the money correctly to ensure the UK as a whole remains an attractive place for the scientists of tomorrow to thrive.”

Wayne Nash, head of office for law firm Shoosmiths in Manchester, said: “The Chancellor’s promise to significantly hike up R&D investment could have a major positive impact on the North West. This level of investment implies a serious intention by the Government that this is where it sees Britain’s future heading.

“As a leading innovation region with collaboration and enterprise at its heart, and world-class initiatives like ID Manchester on the cards, this is an exciting opportunity for the North West economy to capitalise on.”

The 2020 budget also sets aside investment to grow cities’ ‘green’ economies and support the low-carbon agenda.

Sunak pledged £500m over the next five years to support the roll-out of rapid charging points for electric vehicles so that drivers are not more than 30 miles away from a charging station.

The Rapid Charging Fund will include money to businesses to help fund the cost of installing charging points and connecting them to the electricity grid.

Meanwhile, £304m will be made available to eligible local authorities to reduce their nitrogen and carbon dioxide emissions and improve air quality.

The budget said road transport produces 91% of all the UK’s domestic transport emissions – equating to approximately one-fifth of the UK’s overall carbons emissions, and said the government will soon unveil further plans on how to encourage people to curb driving.

In total “£1bn in green transport solutions” will be delivered over the budget period, while a net zero review will be published later in the year, Sunak said in his speech.

Carl Williams, North West managing partner at Grant Thornton, said: “We look forward to hearing further details about the plans for the £800m investment in Carbon Capture Storage Clusters, which could be a boon for the Liverpool city region.

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