The Budget announcements had chunky commitments on key areas of focus for UK innovation and digital policy:
- On R&D: a 15% uplift in R&D funding next year, and plans to get to £22bn per year by 2024/5, alongside an increase in the rate of the R&D tax credit (and a consultation on whether qualifying R&D tax credit costs should include investments in data and cloud computing) and confirmation that the government will go ahead with ARPA – all are good news, and all reflect CBI asks.
- On digital infrastructure: CBI asks are reflected with £5bn to connect the hardest-to-reach areas of the UK with gigabit broadband as well as £510m for the Shared Rural Network to improve 4G coverage, which will be more than matched by business funding.
- Innovation adoption: an additional £5 million was announced for Be the Business to expand its national productivity campaign and further develop its digital tools and resources.
This package of measures, alongside others to improve access to finance and broader increases in infrastructure investment, are good news for the UK’s innovation and digital economy.
Now the money has been committed, the next question is how to spend it?
- On R&D this question is particularly pertinent. Although some announcements were made, much of the decision making has, appropriately, been deferred to the Spending Review. Key considerations must be ensuring the money increases R&D investment around the country and will need to be designed to leverage in business investment. We’ve done some thinking about how that might look.
- On digital infrastructure the £5bn for the outside in programme must be directed to the hardest to reach areas to prevent overbuild. And it’s not just about investment, meeting the government’s big connectivity commitments also require legislative action, access to people, and uptake by businesses and households.
- On innovation adoption the role that adoption plays in increasing the market demand for innovation is often underestimated. It is worth considering if some of the R&D money could also go for supporting adoption (for example in the way that the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund is used to support Made Smarter). I’ll share more information about innovation adoption trends and challenges on this blog soon.
CBI members can also read more on the CBI’s reaction to what the budget means for innovation and digital at MyCBI.