New government fund earmarks billions for tech R&D

Prime Minister Theresa May discussed government plans to provide tax breaks to innovative companies and billions in funding for scientific R&D at the CBI 2016 Annual Conference in London.

Tech R&D London Theresa May at CBI Conference 2016
The government is to earmark a £2 billion-a-year fund for scientific R&D to put the UK at the "cutting edge" of technology in the post-Brexit world, Prime Minister Theresa May announced at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) on Monday.

Theresa May's CBI conference speech

Mrs May's announcement came as a survey by the CBI revealed that UK companies were planning to boost spending on innovation in order to make the most of global opportunities after the exit from the European Union. It was also announced at the conference of 1,000 business leaders in London that Facebook will create 500 more jobs in London the capital when it opens a new UK headquarters next year. In her speech, Mrs May said the extra funding for R&D would be available from 2020 and would support areas such as robotics and biotechnology, and would help commercialise new discoveries. She also said the government would look at giving tax breaks to innovative companies. "Britain has firms and researchers leading in some of the most exciting fields of human discovery. We need to back them and turn research strengths into commercial success," Mrs May said."We will also review the support we give innovative firms through the tax system because my aim is not simply for the UK to have the lowest corporate tax rate in the G20 (20 per cent at present and due to fall to 17 per cent in 2020), but also one that is profoundly pro-innovation."

CBI survey shows positivity for innovation spending

The CBI survey of more than 800 businesses, conducted in collaboration with Deloitte and Hays, showed that 70 per cent planned to increase or maintain their innovation spending following the vote to leave the EU, with only seven per cent saying they intended to reduce investment.

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Last year businesses spent almost £21 billion on innovation, allowing British firms to develop cutting-edge products and services, attract global investment and expand internationally. But the CBI added, "The challenge for businesses is that while the UK innovation system has world-class attributes, it does not currently match their ambitions. Businesses rate the UK as 10th in the world for innovation."

Access to skills top priority in Brexit negotiations

With regard to the Brexit negotiations, two-thirds of companies put access to skills as a top priority, while 41 per cent regarded tariff-free access for goods as essential and 38 per cent supported the retention of common regulatory standards.Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director-general, said, “The UK will need to work hard to become the front-runner in global innovation, creating a pioneering economic role for itself in the world that drives prosperity in every corner of the UK. “Spending on innovation generates jobs and economic growth across the country, offering solutions to the challenges we face today and in the years ahead from improving healthcare and mobile technology to a new generation of autonomous vehicles. “While the UK has many innovation strengths to build on, businesses are worried that the country is too much of a follower in the global economy, with the lack of access to technical skills a grave concern for ambitious firms."

Facebook to increase London staff by 50 per cent

The announcement that Facebook was to increase its staffing in London by 50 per cent next year was made at the conference by the social media giant's European head Nicola Mendelsohn who said many of the jobs would be in high-skilled engineering positions.She added, "The UK remains one of the best places to be a tech company and is an important part of Facebook's story. We came to London in 2007 with just a handful of people; by the end of next year we will have opened a new HQ and plan to employ 1,500 people."Mayor of London Sadiq Khan commented, "Facebook's decision to expand in London is further evidence that London's strength as a tech hub keeps on growing. The capital's vibrant tech scene is the envy of Europe and Facebook's continuing commitment is another sign that London is open to talent, innovation and entrepreneurship from all four corners of the world."

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