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CaSE responds to the 2021 Spring Budget

03 Mar 2021

CaSE welcomes today’s budget from the Chancellor, but every effort is needed from across government to make the government’s vision a reality.

Today’s budget from the government announced a number of measures to encourage business investment, particularly innovative firms, which could help with an R&D innovation-led recovery from the effects of the Covid pandemic. There were also announcements on attracting global talent, with further detail to follow. However, announcements on science funding expected by the sector were lacking.

Commenting on the budget, CaSE Executive Director Professor Sarah Main said:

“The Chancellor’s Budget understandably focussed on the health and economic recovery from Covid. There was a strong innovation theme, with support for innovative firms and the green economy, and this could shape an R&D-led recovery in the UK. Consultations on R&D tax credits and on unlocking pension funds to invest in R&D and innovation are welcome, as is support for small businesses navigating the visa system for the first time. These measures have all been called for by CaSE.

However, for a Chancellor who wants the UK to be ‘at the forefront of the next scientific and technological revolutions’, announcements on science funding were notably scarce. There was no provision for the UK’s agreed participation in Horizon Europe, expected to cost around £2bn per annum, no specific measures to alleviate Covid pressure on UKRI’s budget, or support for research charities. Meeting these costs from the existing science budget would have an impact across the UK’s science and research activity.

The UK’s strength in research and innovation can drive recovery and shape the future economy. But parts of the system have taken significant blows over the last year. For research and innovation to support UK recovery and growth, it must start from a strong foundation itself.”

The government also published Build Back Better alongside the Budget, setting out plans to boost private sector investment in R&D across infrastructure, skills and innovation.

Digest of Budget 2021

Business R&D

  • Building on the government’s Future Fund, the government will commit £375 million to introduce Future Fund: Breakthrough to support the scale up of R&D-intensive businesses. The British Business Bank will take equity in funding rounds of over £20 million led by private investors to ensure these companies can access the capital they need to grow and bring prosperity to communities across the UK.
  • The government will carry out a consultation of R&D tax reliefs. This review will consider all elements of the two R&D tax relief schemes – Small and medium sized enterprises (SME) R&D Relief and the Research and Development Expenditure Credit – with the objective of ensuring the UK remains a competitive location for cutting edge research. The government is also publishing the summary of responses of the recent consultation on the scope of qualifying expenditures for R&D tax credits across the UK. The government will consider bringing data and cloud computing costs into the scope of relief.
  • From 1 April 2021 until 31 March 2023, companies investing in qualifying new plant and machinery assets will benefit from a 130% first-year capital allowance. Investing companies will also benefit from a 50% first-year allowance for qualifying special rate assets.

Global talent

  • The government will introduce a new points-based visa by March 2022, enabling those with a job offer from a recognised UK scale-up to qualify for a fast-track visa.
  • Reform the Global Talent visa, including to allow holders of international prizes and winners of scholarships and programmes to automatically qualify.
  • Review the Innovator visa to make it easier for those with the skills and experience to found an innovative business to obtain a visa.

Museums and Culture

  • £90m support for National Museums and cultural bodies, including the Science Museum Group.


Notes to Editors

  1. The Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) is the UK’s leading independent advocate for science and engineering. Our mission is to ensure that the UK has the skills, funding and policies to enable science and engineering to thrive. We represent over 115 scientific organisations including businesses, universities, professional bodies, and research charities as well as individual scientists and engineers. Collectively our members employ over 336,000 people in the UK, and our industry and charity members invest around £32.2bn a year globally in R&D.
  2. For details of the 2021 Spring Budget see here
  3. Read our latest work on R&D investment here
  4. On the government’s R&D investment targets and the ‘levelling-up’ agenda you can read our response to the 2020 Spending Review
  5. Read our comment piece from earlier this week on the need for government to fund association with EU research programmes from outside the existing science budget
  6. Read our response to the Global Talent visa from January 2020 here