More and more in the last twelve months mention has been made of the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ by numerous current and former politicians in the context of UK Plc – indeed I have read the book (of the same name) written by Klaus Schwab, Chairman of the World Economic Forum, who has developed the idea of this latest period of industrial change. The various videos on the WEF’s YouTube channel are very much worth a watch and form the backdrop for a significant part of Philip Hammond’s first major announcement as Chancellor.
Even before the Autumn Statement itself Theresa May had promised an annual £2bn investment into a fund for scientific research and development (R&D) and a review of the R&D tax incentive regime – and that is what Philip Hammond confirmed, albeit with very little in the way of detail.
In addition, however, we also learned that there would be a £23bn ‘National Productivity & Innovation Fund’ (NPIF), and it looks like that is this body from which the £2bn per annum in respect of R&D spend will be sourced. Funds will also be allocated to housing, infrastructure and digital communications. What looks to be happening is that Government is making some early announcements around the kind of structure that will replace the EU grant funding framework.
Further measures in relation to R&D were also announced, but in terms of R&D tax credits the announcements are limited in detail.
Allied to the field of fast moving tech and advanced manufacturing there were some changes announced with respect to EIS / SEIS and VCTs, but with preciously little detail attached. Once more detail is available we will be able to opine in greater depth. Also the British Business Bank will invest £400m in venture capital funds which seemingly will be leveraged to allow £1bn of investment in innovative start-ups.
As with this Autumn Statement as a whole, there really isn’t very much detail and we hope to get a better sense of the real changes and stories on 5 December 2016 when we expect draft legislation to be published.