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Your weekly digest of policy news, funding competitions, and calls for evidence. 7 September 2018 
Compiled by Georgina Hines


Funding announced to boost UK skills and productivity

A new package of funding will support UK businesses to help boost kills, growth and prosperity, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced this week at the annual Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, UK. This will include a £95m increase to the Apprenticeship Levy, allowing businesses the flexibility to hire more apprentices, and £20m to improve the productivity of SMEs through management skills training – 10,000 people will be trained each year by 2025. The National Retraining Scheme launched as part of the government’s Industrial Strategy will receive £100m for its first phase, which will begin next year.

Speaking at the party conference, he said: ‘We have heard the concerns about how the Apprenticeship Levy is working, so today we’ve set out a series of measures to allow firms more flexibility in how the levy is spent. But we know that we may need to do more to ensure that the levy supports the development of the skilled workforce our economy needs. So, in addition to these new flexibilities, we will engage with business on our plans for the long-term operation of the levy. Working hand-in-hand with employers to ensure that every young person can fulfil their potential and achieve their dreams.’


Shortlisted cities for major transport development named

Ten cities across the UK have been shortlisted for a share of £840m to upgrade their public transport links as part of the £1.7bn Transforming Cities Fund from the government’s Industrial Strategy. The funding will help to improve transport connections, which will in turn improve access to jobs and infrastructure for businesses to thrive. The local authorities left to bid are: Derby & Nottingham, Leicester City, the North East, Norwich, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Southampton, Sheffield, Stoke-on-Trent, and West Yorkshire.

‘Our great cities and their suburbs are home to millions of people and world-beating businesses. We want to help them succeed, so as part of our modern Industrial Strategy we will fund £840 million of upgrades for better, safer, faster transport links,’ said Prime Minister Theresa May. 

‘These improvements to vital infrastructure will help spread growth beyond London and empower local businesses to create more, better-paying jobs – opening up more opportunities to help people get on in life and be rewarded for their hard work.’


UK signs space agreement with Australia

Science Minister Sam Gyimah has signed an agreement to collaborate with the Australian Space Agency on communications technologies, space situational awareness and satellite navigation. The Memorandum of Understanding, signed this week at the International Astronautical Congress in Germany, will provide a framework for the UK and Australia to exchange knowledge, technology and workers in the space sector. 

‘When Brits first heard about Australia we thought it was the final frontier, but now we can boldly go even further together through this special space partnership benefitting science, jobs and growth the world over,’ said Gyimah. ‘This agreement is a great example of the importance of international collaboration and how, through our modern Industrial Strategy, we are working with our growing space sector to ensure it continues to thrive.’

Calls for evidence

Deadline: 26 October 2018

Deadline: Open-ended

Funding competitions

Deadline: 24 October 2018 

Businesses can apply for a share of £20m from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund to develop precision agriculture technologies.

Deadline: 31 October 2018

A share of £8m is available to UK businesses for development projects for commercial digital health solutions as part of the Digital Health Technology Catalyst.

Deadline: 31 October 2018

A share of £1m is available to UK businesses for development projects for commercial digital health solutions as part of the Digital Health Technology Catalyst.

Deadline: 14 November 2018

The Department for International Development and EPSRC have announced a share of £10m for organisations developing clean, affordable and secure energy for Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Deadline: 14 November 2018

Innovate UK is offering up to £10m in loans to SMEs for innovations with strong commercial potential that will improve the UK economy.

Deadline: 14 November 2018

Organisations working to deliver disruptive innovations that can significantly impact the UK economy can apply for a share of up to £20m from Innovate UK.


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