Spring Budget 2023: R&D investment, Exascale supercomputer, AI Research
Technology-related subjects included tax relief for R&D investments, building a UK exascale supercomputer, quantum science, mention of an AI Research Resource, swifter approval of medicines and life-science technologies and the government’s Sector-Based Work Academy Programme.
In terms of tax, the Chancellor said an important part of ensuring prosperity is encouraging more businesses to invest in R&D, “helping them to create the technologies, products and services which advance living standards”.
“From 1 April 2023, the government will introduce an increased rate of relief for loss-making R&D intensive Small and Medium size Enterprises. Eligible companies will receive £27 from HMRC for every £100 of R&D investment. The government remains committed to supporting R&D, and recognises the important role that R&D and innovation play for the economy and society.”
He also extended the British Patient Capital programme for a further 10 years until 2033-34 and increases its focus on R&D intensive industries, providing at least £3 billion in investment.
A Long-term Investment for Technology and Science (LIFTS) initiative, was also mentioned, with the government inviting feedback on the design of such a competition.
Finally there was also a refocused Investment Zones programme, “to catalyse 12 growth clusters across the UK, including four across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Each cluster will drive growth in key future sectors and bring investment to the local area.”
He also noted that further investment is needed in infrastructure for research and innovation if the UK is going to be a “science superpower”, highlighting the relative lack of UK supercomputing power.
“Powerful computing capability is an essential component of being a global hub for innovation and achieving the UK’s ambition to be a science superpower. Compute is also essential to progress in Artificial Intelligence research.”
In this context, he promised £900 million of funding to build an exascale supercomputer, and also to establish a new AI Research Resource.
“In line with two of the key recommendations of the Future of Compute Review, the government will invest, subject to the usual business case processes, in the region of £900 million to build an exascale supercomputer and to establish a new AI Research Resource, with initial investments starting this year.
“Together, these will provide significant compute capacity to our AI community and provide scientists with access to cutting-edge computing power. They will allow researchers to better understand climate change, power the discovery of new drugs and maximise our potential in AI.”
No details have been provided of what the AI Research Resource will constitute.
The government will also award a £1 million prize every year for the next 10 years to researchers that “drive progress in critical areas of AI”.
A Quantum Strategy was also mentioned sets out a “new and ambitious quantum research and innovation programme”.
“The government will invest a total of £2.5 billion over 10 years, focusing on realising 4 goals: ensuring the UK is home to world-leading quantum science and engineering; supporting businesses through innovation funding opportunities and by providing access to world-leading R&D facilities; driving the use of quantum technologies in the UK; and creating a national and international regulatory framework.”
The government has also allocated £100 million funding for the UK’s Innovation Accelerators programme.
“This includes the Manchester Turing Innovation Hub led by the University of Manchester, 2 quantum projects in Glasgow led by the University of Glasgow and M-Squared Lasers Limited, and a project to accelerate new health and medical technologies led by the University of Birmingham.”
The government announced that the findings of its Technologies Review, announced in 2022, would be implemented.
“At Autumn Statement 2022 the government asked Sir Patrick Vallance to lead the Pro-innovation Regulation of Technologies Review. The government is taking forward all Sir Patrick’s recommendations on the regulation of emerging digital technologies, published alongside Spring Budget.”
The government says it has now asked Sir Patrick to report on how regulators “can better support innovation, and the government’s new Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Dame Angela McLean, will oversee future reviews into creative industries, advanced manufacturing, and the regulator growth duty.”
There was also a promise to speed approvals of medicines and technologies:
“Based on Sir Patrick’s interim findings on life sciences, the government is providing extra funding for the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to help it maximise use of its Brexit freedoms and accelerate patient access to treatments.”
The MHRA is exploring partnerships with trusted international agencies, such as in the US, Europe and Japan, to provide simple, rapid approvals for medicines and technologies that have received their approval from 2024. The MHRA will also have a fully operational swift approval process in place from 2024 for the most impactful new medicines and technologies – such as cancer vaccines and AI therapeutics for mental health.”
For its Sector-Based Work Academy Programme (SWAPs), the government is expanding the number of placements for SWAPs by 40,000 over 2023/24 and 2024/25 with £28.8m of extra funding.
“This will provide those who are currently out of work with the training and work experience they need to get careers in high-demand sectors.”
You can read full details of the Spring Budget on the Treasure website – see www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/spring-budget-2023
You can find the full budget document online (PDF).
See also: Budget 2021 – Technology funding pledges overtaken by pandemic concerns