Hunt announces new investment zones to boost high-tech growth

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt will present plans for 12 new investment zones to “boost” growth in the high-tech industry when he presents his first budget on Wednesday.

Officials said the scheme – backed by £80m investment over five years in each of the new growth zones – aims to accelerate research and development in Britain’s “emerging industries”.

The move comes after the government was forced to step in to “facilitate” the sale of the UK arm of the collapsed Silicon Valley bank to HSBC to avoid dozens of tech companies being “wiped out”.

The Treasury Department said each of the new investment zones will be clustered around a university or other research facility, bringing growth to areas that have traditionally underperformed economically.

They focus on one of a number of key sectors – technology, creative industries, life sciences, advanced manufacturing and the ‘green’ sector.

Eight areas in England were shortlisted – the East Midlands, Greater Manchester, Liverpool, the North East, South Yorkshire, the Tees Valley, the West Midlands and West Yorkshire.

The Government is also in talks with the devolved administrations on how to set up investment zones in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – taking into account the four final locations.

In addition, Mr Hunt will lay out plans to accelerate the growth of ‘high potential innovation clusters’ in Glasgow, Greater Manchester and the West Midlands with an investment of £100m in 26 ‘transformative’ R&D projects.

In a statement, Mr Hunt said: “True leveling must be about local wealth creation and local decision-making to remove obstacles to regeneration.

“From unleashing opportunities through new investment zones to a new approach to accelerating R&D in city regions, we’re delivering on our top priority of spurring growth across the country.”

The announcement of the shortlist was welcomed by both Conservative and Labor mayors.

Tracy Brabin, Labor Mayor of West Yorkshire, said: “West Yorkshire has a strong and thriving economy and I am delighted that the Government has recognized the strength of our innovation by choosing to work with us to create an investment zone to accomplish.

“It will bring more opportunities to people across the region, as well as our world-leading higher education institutions, and builds on our expertise in digital, technology, and health and life sciences.”

Ben Houchen, Mayor of Tory Tees Valley, said he supported this proposal “incredibly”, in comments echoed by Tory West Midlands leader Andy Street and South Yorkshire Labor Mayor Oliver Coppard.

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