Yesterday saw the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities publish its plans for the new £2.6bn UK Shared Prosperity Fund, including how it will be used to support UK R&D.

When the UK left the EU, crucial funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and European Social Fund (ESF) stopped. Jointly referred to as EU structural funds, this money had been central to building R&D capacity and capability across the UK, particularly in Wales and Northern Ireland. Back in 2017, the Government committed to replacing this funding through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), but yesterday's announcement offered the first details about what the new scheme will fund and how R&D will feature.

CaSE therefore welcomed yesterday's publication which included details, missing from the 2021 Spending Review and Levelling-up White Paper, about how the UKSPF will ensure the whole UK can continue to build its research capacity. We’re particularly pleased to see key recommendations from our ‘Power of Place’ report feature in the Government’s plans.

However, we are concerned by analysis showing the Government has backtracked on its commitment to at least match previous EU funding, with yesterday’s figures criticised by Welsh and Scottish leaders.

R&D a crucial part of Government plans to support local business

The £2.6bn UKSPF is part of a suite of levelling up funding and is a central pillar of the UK Government’s ambitions to drive prosperity and growth in all parts of the UK.

The announcement confirmed that the UKSPF will have three key investment priorities, with each guided by the missions outlined in the Levelling-up White Paper:

  • Communities and place.
  • Supporting local business.
  • People and skills.

CaSE was pleased to see R&D continue to feature prominently in the Government’s plans for levelling-up, particularly in regard to supporting local businesses, with aims to:

  • Create jobs and boost community cohesion.
  • Promote networking and collaboration, bringing together businesses and partners within and across sectors to share knowledge, expertise, and resources, and stimulate innovation and growth.
  • Increase private sector investment in growth enhancing activities, through targeted support for small and medium sized businesses to undertake new-to-firm innovation, adopt productivity-enhancing, energy efficient and low carbon technologies and techniques, and start or grow their exports.

As part of their announcement, it was also great to see a clear focus on levers that will support research partnerships between local and regional organisations, the commercialisation of ideas, and investment into innovation infrastructure at the local level.

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