The Chancellor’s budget speech was used to launch a new £100m fund to invest in ‘major new university research facilities’ which, it is hoped, will attract further funding for university research from external sources. In addition, the Wellcome Trust announced it was to invest £200m in a new business to support healthcare and life sciences companies. Thirdly, GlaxoSmithKline last week selected Ulverston in Cumbria as the site of a major new manufacturing facility, which would see £500m of investment split between it and GSK’s existing manufacturing facilities in Montrose and Irvine in Scotland.
GSK’s decision was influenced, at least in part, by a new ‘patent box’ scheme announced in the budget, in which companies would be able to pay a lower rate of corporation tax on profits derived from British-owned intellectual property.
Michael Moore, Scottish Secretary and Lib Dem MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk said:
‘The £100m investment in Irvine and Montrose is fantastic news for these communities and our life science sector. The tax measures announced by the Government are attracting investment and creating jobs. The new patent box and further reductions in corporation tax make Scotland and Britain a great place for companies like GSK to invest. Ayrshire and Angus have a proud track record in making life enhancing medicines and vaccines. This is a massive vote of confidence in their highly skilled staff. It is also a confirmation that the Government are creating the right tax environment for companies to do business.’
The new Wellcome Trust investment business, provisionally titled Project Sigma, is intended to provide the support for small and medium-sized medical and life science companies needed for them to grow into sustainable businesses. Sir Mark Walport, the Trust’s Director said:
‘This important investment opportunity will help the Trust to fulfil its vision of achieving extraordinary improvements in health, by generating returns that can be used to fund the work of outstanding researchers in the biomedical sciences and the medical humanities.’
Chancellor Osborne’s announcement of new funding for new research was cautiously welcomed by Imran Khan, the Director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering. He said:
‘Today’s announcement is the latest in a string of pledges of extra cash for science and engineering, and shows that the Government does understand that we cannot have a rebalanced economy without investment in research.
‘However, simply reversing cuts isn’t going to be a game-changer for the UK. We need to be far more ambitious if we’re serious about having a high-tech future. The Chancellor should re-invest the windfall from the auction of 4G mobile spectrum, due later this year, into science and engineering’