Osborne urged not to blunt UK's hi-tech edge

Britain risks finding itself in the “industrial slow lane” if support for hi-tech research comes under the chancellor’s axe in his Autumn Statement next Wednesday.

On behalf of innovators, the EEF also warned George Osborne that the “increasingly fragile” outlook meant that the budget for support agency Innovate UK must be maintained, not cut.

The employers’ group, the CBI, agrees, believing that ministers should not proceed with a plan to replace funds for the hi-tech development agency with loans.  

The EEF, which represents manufacturers, also asked the chancellor to use his first Autumn Statement with a Conservative majority government to boost UKTI, which handles exports.

“We recognise the difficult environment the government faces,” said EEF's Terry Acuoler, referring to the government's need for spending cutbacks. "[But] reducing spending in innovation would harm efforts to improve productivity".

His appeal was sounded just as HM Treasury unveiled a new plan designed to make obtaining R&D tax relief easier for “small companies” – those with under £2m in turnover.

Under the plan, such small companies will be able to seek "advance assurance" on R&D tax relief, so they have "greater certainty" and more ability to "plan their finances effectively."

Ways to improve awareness of R&D tax relief, including looking at how HMRC can use data to identify where R&D has been carried out but not claimed for, will also go ahead.

About six in ten manufacturers have used R&D tax credits, says the EEF, but almost seven in ten think the government’s support for commercialising new technology could be better.

Nov 17, 2015