Hunt to announce new investment zones to ‘supercharge’ hi-tech growth
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is to set out plans for 12 new investment zones to “supercharge” growth in hi-tech industries when he unveils his first Budget on Wednesday.
Officials said the scheme – backed by £80 million of investment over five years in each of the new high-growth zones – is designed to accelerate research and development in the UK’s “most budding industries”.
The move comes after the Government was forced to step in to “facilitate” the sale of the UK arm of the collapsed Silicon Valley Bank to HSBC to prevent dozens of tech companies being “wiped out”.
The Treasury said each of the new investment zones will be clustered around a university or other research institution, bringing growth to areas which have traditionally underperformed economically.
They will be focused on one of a series of key sectors – technology, creative industries, life sciences, advanced manufacturing and the “green” sector.
Eight areas in England have been shortlisted – the East Midlands, Greater Manchester, Liverpool, the North East, South Yorkshire, the Tees Valley, the West Midlands and West Yorkshire.
The Government is also in discussions with the devolved administrations over how investment zones can be established in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – accounting for the four final locations.
In addition, Mr Hunt will set out plans to accelerate the growth of “high-potential innovation clusters” in Glasgow, Greater Manchester and the West Midlands with £100 million of investment in 26 “transformative” R&D projects.
In a statement, Mr Hunt said: “True levelling up must be about local wealth creation and local decision-making to unblock obstacles to regeneration.
“From unleashing opportunity through new investment zones, to a new approach to accelerating R&D in city regions, we are delivering on our key priority to supercharge growth across the country.”
The shortlist announcement was welcomed by both Conservative and Labour regional mayors.
Tracy Brabin, the Labour mayor of West Yorkshire, said: “West Yorkshire has a strong and thriving economy, and I’m pleased the Government has recognised the strength of our innovation by choosing to work with us to deliver an investment zone.
“It will provide further opportunities for people across the region, as well as our world leading higher educational facilities, building on our expertise in digital, technology, and health and life sciences.”
Ben Houchen, Tory Tees Valley mayor, said he was “incredibly supportive of this proposal”, in comments echoed by Tory West Midlands leader Andy Street and Labour mayor of South Yorkshire, Oliver Coppard.