The UK government has vowed to back certain areas of British industry with considerable funding streams that could mean greater job security and improved routes to market for innovative manufacturing companies.
The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and Chancellor, Sajid Javid, outlined investment pledges for both the life sciences and UK infrastructure at the start of the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester.
Tory Party banners draped around the city’s Central Convention Complex proclaiming “Invest. Invest. Invest.” seem to signal a government confident in public finances, despite uncertainty surrounding Brexit.
Bold tones when contrasted with a much different view of the public purse some years ago, when the emphasis was instead on austerity and cutting-back.
To kick off the four-day conference in the north, the PM unveiled plans for a £200m cash boost for the UK’s health and life sciences industry, a sum accompanied by £400m of private investment – giving science companies teeth in their plans to expand development.
The money, which is yet to be distributed, is intended as seed capital for research investigations that will, in turn, enable the industry to employ more scientists and lift manufacturing in this country.
Prime Minister Johnson said he wants a “vibrant” economy post-Brexit that is “fuelled by science and technology”.
He bemoaned scientific discoveries that are “too often” commercialised by other competing nations:
“The UK has the best universities in the world and we have a proud history of scientific discovery from penicillin to sequencing the human genome. But too often we let another country commercialise this discovery. Today I am changing that.
He continued: “I want the lifesaving cancer treatments of tomorrow to say, ‘discovered and made in Britain’. That means allowing enough late stage capital to be mobilised so that these science discoveries do not have to go overseas to be commercialised.”
Improved transport links
Supporting the Conservative Party spending pledges that are the central feature of this year’s conference, is the party’s promise for an “infrastructure revolution”.
Sajid Javid, the chancellor of the exchequer, has vowed to invest £25bn upgrading 14 major roads in England, and £5bn for ultrafast broadband in parts of the UK he described as the “hardest to reach”.
The chancellor said the investment was made possible by taxpayer money, business borrowing and “record low interest rates”, according to the BBC.
The National Roads Fund, which was already set aside by his predecessor Philip Hammond, is earmarked for 2020 to 2025.
Construction firms set to receive a chunk of the £25bn, will be tasked with completing the dual carriageway project currently underway on the A66 Trans-Pennine expressway and the A46 Newark bypass.
Two other road improvement schemes that are first in line for the funding pot are improvements to the M60 Simister Island interchange in Manchester, and commencement of works on the A428 to improve journeys between Cambridge and Milton Keynes.
In the east of England, the A12 is also scheduled to be widened. The Chancellor is also expected to renew his pledge earlier this month for £50m to create the UK’s first all-electric bus town or city.
Telecom companies working in digital infrastructure could see demand in their services increase when the sector receives a £5bn government boost.
The chancellor of the exchequer promised the investment which is intended to support “gigabit-capable internet, and mobile networks – including 5G”, according to the BBC.
Although a deadline is yet to be established, Javid wants to improve connectivity in the hardest-to-reach 20% of the country – upping the earlier target of 10%.
Lee Collinson, national head of manufacturing, transport and logistics at Barclays, said current internet speeds could only take business “so far”, adding that better digital connectivity was a “critical component” for success in UK manufacturing.
In his recent article – Bringing the UK’s digital infrastructure up to speed, Collinson noted that, “Full fibre broadband is necessary to underpin a countrywide rollout of 5G coverage.”
“5G will play a vital role in spreading and supporting the use of other new technologies that are currently in their infancy to reach their full potential, including the internet of things (IoT), big data, connected and autonomous vehicles, smart cities and homes, and augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR).”
He added: “It will support enhanced machine-to-machine communication, which will accelerate developments in artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML).
“It will enable industrial automation systems and robots to operate at unseen speeds and increase the rate that real-time data analysis can be done, meaning quicker reactions to potential issues.”
The Conservative Party has so far made spending pledges of more than £50bn at their Manchester conference.
By Rory Butler, Digital Journalist
*Images courtesy of Depositphotos