Photo credit: Jim Trodel
Philip Hammond gave his first Budget since his appointment as Chancellor this week in the House of Commons on 22 November. Against convention, science and technology played a pivotal role in this year’s Autumn Budget, perhaps driven by the perceived initial success of this government’s Industrial Strategy.
Hammond promised his plan would ‘look forwards not backwards’ as Britain enters a critical stage in its history. This outlook is needed ‘to embrace that change, to meet those challenges head on and to seize those opportunities for Britain,’ he said.
Here are the top science policy and business announcements from the Budget.
£6bn extra to National Productivity Investment Fund, says Hammond
The biggest win for businesses in this Autumn Budget was the expansion of the National Productivity Investment Fund – raised from £23bn to £31bn to be spread over the next five years. The fund was announced by Hammond last Autumn and aims to focus on areas that are critical for productivity and economic growth: housing, R&D, and infrastructure.
£2.3bn will also be allowed for further R&D investment, with the associated tax credit raised to 12%. ‘We will harness this potential and turn it into the high-paid, high-productivity jobs of tomorrow,’ Hammond said.
Electric vehicle technology to receive investment boost
‘Our future vehicles will be driverless, but they’ll be electric first,’ Hammond said. ‘And that’s a change that needs to come as soon as possible’. To achieve this, the Budget will include a £400m charging infrastructure fund, as well as £40m for charging R&D. Hammond has also dedicated a further £100m for the Plug-In-Grant – used to help reduce the price of new electric vehicles for car manufacturers and dealerships – launched earlier this year.
Investment into electric cars is seen to be an extra push towards meeting the 2040 government target to ban the sale of new diesel and petrol cars. There is also the Faraday Challenge to consider – run by Innovate UK – which already has a £246m fund to develop battery technology for electric cars. Will these two funds be working closely together?
Hammond: UK must tackle plastic waste for future economy
Hammond also used the Autumn Budget to address the UK’s issues with single-use plastics. ‘The UK led the world on climate change agreements and is a pioneer in protecting marine environments’ he said – next the UK must tackle plastic waste.
Talks with Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, will be used to investigate how the current tax system charges single-use plastics. ‘Because we can’t keep our promise to the next generation to build an economy fit for the future, unless we ensure our planet has a future.’