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Theresa May promises £2bn R&D investment ahead of Autumn Statement

Ahead of the Autumn Statement, prime minister Theresa May has promised to deliver government investment of £2bn a year for research and development (R&D), while she also highlighted the modern Industrial Strategy and Brexit plans.
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The Autumn Statement doesn’t take place until Wednesday 23 November, but prime minister Theresa May has already offered insights on how businesses can expect to supported.

She spoke at the CBI Annual Conference, where she discussed the importance of R&D, which she backed up with a plan to invest an additional £2bn a year by 2020.

“We’re ambitious for Britain to become the global go-to place for scientists, innovators and tech investors,” she said.

May continued by referencing the Brexit and what it could mean for non-British workers: “We will continue to welcome the brightest and the best – but can only do so by bringing immigration down to sustainable levels overall so we maintain public faith in the system.”

The goal of investment will be to make “commercial success” of the research that is being conducted by firms across the country in order to stay on track against competitors. This will be monitored by a Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

She added: “That means not only investing more in research and development, but ensuring we invest that money wisely. Supporting technologies and sectors that have the potential to deliver long-term benefits for Britain.

“So in the Autumn Statement on Wednesday, we will commit to substantial real terms increases in government investment in R&D – investing an extra £2bn a year by the end of this Parliament to help put post-Brexit Britain at the cutting edge of science and tech.”

She also reflected on her plan for a Modern Industrial Strategy to support strengths and combat weaknesses in UK plc. Taking investment from international partners was described as one of the latter.

“We are home to one of the world’s financial capitals, but too frequently fast-growing firms can’t get the patient long-term capital investment they require, and have to sell-out to overseas investors to access the finance they need,” May detailed.

Confident of growth ahead, however, she added: “We have already received massive votes of confidence in Britain’s long-term future from some of the world’s most innovative companies.”

May continued to reel the commitments off. They included:

Nissan’s decision to build two next-generation models at its plant in the North East, securing 7,000 jobs.

  • A record £24bn investment from Softbank in Britain’s future.
  • A £500m expansion and 3,000 jobs from Jaguar Land Rover.
  • A £200m investment from Honda.
  • £275m from GlaxoSmithKline.
  • Investment in a new headquarters from Apple.
  • An estimated £1bn investment and 3,000 new jobs from Google.
  • A 50 per cent increase in the Facebook workforce in the UK by the end of 2017.

May also teased what chancellor Philip Hammond has up his sleeve for the Autumn Statement.

“I have no doubt at all about the vital role business plays – not just in the economic life of our nation, but in our society too. But as Prime Minister, I want to support you to do even more,” she said.

“That is why, when the Chancellor delivers the government’s Autumn Statement on Wednesday, he will lay out an agenda that is ambitious for business and ambitious for Britain.”

Stuart Veale, managing partner at venture and growth investor Beringea, offered his thoughts on May’s announcements.

“Just last week London was named the best EU city for digital entrepreneurs and it is encouraging to see Theresa May’s ‘pro-innovation’ plans to build upon this success by investing time and money into science and tech innovation,” he said.

“There is already so much talent and potential in industries such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality and an increase in government-backed R&D will complement the number of scale-up VC funds that have been created with these industries in mind.

“The UK still has a way to go in terms of becoming a global frontrunner within these sectors, but by increasing funding and support for both startups and scale-ups within these sectors, the government is taking necessary steps towards closing the funding gap between the UK and Silicon Valley.”

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Zen Terrelonge

Zen Terrelonge is the deputy editor of Real Business, specialising in media, innovation, technology and the digital sector. A media professional with eight years worth of experience he has worked for both startup and established publications.

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