Despite mixed responses elsewhere, Chancellor Phillip Hammond’s final pre-Brexit budget received a generally encouraging response from industry for its investment in productivity and new technologies.
R&D: New £1.6 billion investment as part of Industrial Strategy spending with focus on nuclear fusion, artificial intelligence and quantum computing. Plus £50 million for new Truing AI partnerships and £100 million international fellowship.
Industry 4.0: increase of £1.1 billion for Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund to encourage Internet of Things and Virtual Reality technologies.
Annual Investment Allowance: Tax-free amount for machinery purchases increased from £200,000 to £1 million.
Apprenticeships: £0.7 million package for small businesses, with halving of business co-investment level to 5%.
Entrepreneur relief: retained.
Karl Barnfather, chairman of intellectual property firm, Withers & Rogers, said: “The detail from the Budget has revealed much more about the Government’s intentions for computing and advanced technologies and the outlook is more positive than we might have hoped.
“The additional funding is coming at a time when the UK is at the forefront of global research and development activity in technologies that have the potential to transform our future and boost UK productivity.
“In allocating this funding now, the Government understands that the R&D activity emerging from our universities is at a critical stage and must be harnessed, developed and commercialised in the UK in order to bring lasting economic benefits.”
Richard Godmon, tax partner at accountancy firm, Menzies LLP, welcomed the apprenticeships reforms for small to medium firms who were “concerned about the impact of Brexit on their access to skills in the future', saying it “could create an important opportunity to introduce and grow their own talent.”
“We weren’t expecting big decisions about funding for business in this Budget, due to the high level of Brexit uncertainty. However, there is some positive news for small and growing businesses, with the prospect of more to come, if the right Brexit deal is struck.”