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Vocational Training: West Midlands

Volume 504: debated on Monday 18 January 2010

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills what steps his Department is taking to encourage innovation in the West Midlands. (307314)

[holding answer 16 December 2009]: As part of its objective to build a strong economy Government are taking a range of measures to encourage innovation in the West Midlands and across the country as a whole.

We are doing this through, for example the UK Innovation Investment Fund (UKIIF) which will ensure that venture capital is available by early 2010 to invest in innovative British businesses across the United Kingdom in key sectors (life sciences, clean technology, digital and advanced manufacturing). In the PBR we announced that Government's investment of £150 million in the UKIIF has leveraged £175 million in additional money, creating a pool of funding initially worth £325 million.

Support for innovation is also provided through the R&D Tax Credit scheme, which allows companies to claim tax relief against R&D expenditure. Latest figures show that up until 31 March 2008, 425 SMEs and 115 large companies in the West Midlands had their claims for R&D Tax Credits approved.

The establishment of the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) in 2007 has given Britain a successful business-led body whose programmes channel public funds into driving business innovation in areas where there are major opportunities for future growth.

The Government funded Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) are also supporting innovation. The West Midlands RDA, Advantage West Midlands (AWM), has aligned around £157 million of funding with TSB priorities over 2008-11. The Agency is the lead RDA on two of the national Innovation Platforms, Low Carbon Vehicles and Assisted Living and is working on initiatives related to other platforms:

Intelligent transport systems and services and low impact buildings as well as exploring opportunities in possible future platforms such as immersive education.

Key innovation-based projects supported by AWM include:

(i) The £77 million investment in the Birmingham-Warwick Research Alliance through Birmingham Science City creates a platform on which to build university-business collaboration and business access to research equipment and expertise, in the areas of energy, advanced materials, and translational medicine.

(ii) The Advanced Sensors Innovation Project has created an investment fund of over £6 million to exploit intellectual property within QinetiQ at Malvern in conjunction with industry. A further project to exploit Quantum Technologies is under development in a partnership between QinetiQ, AWM and industry.

(iii) AWM is investing £30 million over the next three years to support the Low Carbon Vehicles (LCV) plan from the National Automotive Innovation Growth Team. Part of this will go to a programme based at a regional hub and part will be co-invested with the TSB in support of its Low Carbon Vehicles Innovation Platform.

(iv) AWM is investing £40 million, in partnership with emda, in the Manufacturing Technology Centre. Bringing together Tier 1 manufacturing companies, and their supply chains, key Midlands's universities and The Welding Institute (TWI), the MTC will create a step change in the competitiveness of UK manufacturing performance focused around assembly, joining and fabrication technologies.

(v) AWM has committed around £20 million to support development of clinical trialling and experimental medicine facilities within the translational medicine part of the Science City programme, as well as investing in a Health Technologies Design Institute at Coventry University.