Speaking at the launch of the Warwick University CIU event at Needham House Hotel which Sir Oliver attended with organiser Alan Profit of Rainbow Ultrasonics in Letchworth Garden City, Sir Oliver said :
“I am very pleased to be opening this Focus Group meeting this morning. We are not quite in my constituency but I know that Peter Lilley takes a keen interest in scientific innovation and I will be letting him see the report of the meeting when it is available. I welcome the fact that the CIU chose our County as the location for the third of its three Focus Group meetings and I am particularly pleased that Rainbow Ultrasonics which is located in my constituency at Letchworth Garden City has played a major part in making this event happen. I have known Alan Profit for many years and have followed the progress of his company with keen interest.
When Alan Finn first approached me about the meeting he explained that its purpose is to explore how the CIU at Warwick University can improve its services to industry in innovation and new product development. This is an admirable aim and following the Chancellor’s comments yesterday in the Autumn Statement, could not be more timely. I hope you will agree that there were a number of significant and very positive announcements in the speech and I am sure you will be exploring these further in your discussions.
Hertfordshire already, I believe, demonstrates a high degree of interaction between small and medium businesses and its University. I am proud to be a Court Member at the University of Hertfordshire and it is nationally and internationally recognised for the standard of its research. We are also fortunate to sit on the fringes of Silicone Fen as the greater Cambridge area is now being referred to and businesses in Hertfordshire and beyond have everything to gain by working more and more closely with our academic institutions.
Yesterday, the Chancellor confirmed that the Local Enterprise Partnerships in the East of England have secured £151 million via the Growth Deal to develop plans for investment in much needed infrastructure, skills and business support projects. In a further boost to our area, the Chancellor announced a Science and Innovation Audit in the East of England. This Audit will be a detailed survey of cutting edge innovation taking place in industry and the public sector and will inform central Government of the strength of our region for potential future funding streams and to assist with foreign direct investment. This is support for our area and for exactly the sector that is represented here today and I hope that many of you will be able to be involved in some way in identifying projects that could attract Government or investment funding. Earlier this week, the Prime Minister announced an additional £2 billion investment in research and development nationally and the new Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund to back priority technologies. I hope this was music to your ears and I do believe it is a significant step forward for the Eastern Region.
This Government has made very clear that research and development is a key driver of economic growth and is a vital part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy. The NPIF will provide an additional £4.7 billion in our R&D funding by 2020-21. This is an extra £2 billion a year by the end of this Parliament – an increase of around 20% to total Government R&D spending.
Through the NPIF the Government will fund :
- The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, a new cross disciplinary fund to support collaborations between business and the UK’s science base, which will set identifiable challenges for UK’s researchers to tackle. The Fund will be managed by Innovate UK and research councils. The Challenge Fund will cover a broad range of technologies to be decided by an evidence based process
- Innovation, applied science and research will receive additional funding to increase research capacity and business innovation. Once established, UKRI will award funding on the basis of national excellence and will include a substantial increase in grant funding through Innovate UK.The Government is also reviewing the tax system for R&D to look at ways to build on the introduction of the “above the line” R&D tax credit. This will make the UK an even more competitive place to do R&D. In October, the Government committed an additional £100 million until 2020-21 to extend and enhance the bio medical catalyst. These funds will be allocated to Innovate UK to incentivise university collaboration in tech transfer and in working with business.
As I said at the beginning, this meeting could not be more timely. I hope that the Government’s renewed commitment to research and development will excite SMEs in our area. The well-known phrase seize the day could perhaps be our guiding motto.”