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Budget 2019 – A missed opportunity

Reaction to the Government’s Budget proposals have been mixed. While the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, unveiled a raft of limited proposals to support UK technology many believe that a lack of clarity around Brexit and the prospect of the UK leaving the EU in a disorderly fashion could mean all the Government’s ‘good intentions’ come to nought.

So, what did he announce? Among the more eye-catching proposals was an announcement to invest a further £235million to support the development and commercialisation of “quantum technologies”, with £35m allocated to support a new national quantum computing centre.

This is in addition to the Government’s recent £80 million extension of the Quantum Technology Hubs and takes overall funding of the UK’s National Quantum Technology Programme to £315m.

Other announcements included increasing the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund by £1.1 billion, with over £120m set aside for Made Smarter, which has been set up to help in the transformation of manufacturing through the exploitation of the Internet of Things and virtual reality.

One stand-out announcement was that the UK will levy a 2% digital services tax on large digital firms. Large social media platforms, search engines and online marketplaces will now have to pay a tax on any revenues earned from UK users.

With regards the apprenticeship levy large business will now be able to invest up to 25percent of their apprenticeship levy to support apprentices in their supply chain. In addition the Government will increase the Annual Investment Allowance from £200,000 to £1million to help businesses to invest more.

While many welcomed the Government’s ongoing commitment to increase spending on R&D across the economy in a bid to boost productivity, there was criticism of the fact that there was no further update on the Chancellor’s proposed reforms to the EIS fund structure to encourage investment into early-stage firms deemed highly innovative. He'd talked about reforms earlier in the year.

Seen as critically important to supporting new businesses, critics said that the government should have been more willing to provide a helping hand to young companies struggling to scale-up, especially when 50% of start-ups fail within their first three years. A missed opportunity?

But no matter what Hammond announced there is a strong possibility that without a solid Brexit agreement, a new budget, new forecasts and different policy priorities may well have to be considered.

The Government cannot assume that tech start-ups will continue to flourish so a no-deal could very well see calls for greater investment incentives and infrastructure improvements.

Likewise far too many businesses are in the dark about the Government’s plans for Brexit, but then aren't we all?

All the initiatives and good intentions of the Government could well come to nought, should the UK exit the EU without a deal.

Author
Neil Tyler

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