The Government support innovation through Innovate UK, soon to be part of UK Research and Innovation, and have invested more than £1.8 billion in innovation since 2007. Innovate UK is connecting businesses to local growth through its regional managers, and local enterprise partnerships are supporting innovation through £200 million of local growth funding.
As chairman of the parliamentary space committee, may I point out that the space industry has outgrown the economy by 10% all through the austerity years? However, the industry is quite worried about the issues that could be caused by Brexit, even though the European Space Agency is outside the European Union. Can the Minister give us a categorical assurance that the space industry—and the aviation industry, which is annexed to it—will not be overlooked, especially in areas such as the north-west?
We certainly recognise the value of space to our economy and we are working closely with industry to understand their concerns. We are also working closely with colleagues across the Government to ensure that we understand the impact of the referendum and all the opportunities associated with it, and we will continue to do that as we shape our future relationship with the European Union.
The success of our agricultural industry is dependent on the latest innovations in agricultural science and technology, which are driven forward by world-leading research centres such as Fera on the outskirts of York. What assurances can the Minister give us that agri-food research will continue to play an important role in the Government’s overall strategy for supporting innovation and, ultimately, delivering food security?
This Government are investing £160 million in agri-tech, including in centres for agricultural innovation, to ensure that our world-leading science is improving productivity on farms. In addition, a UK-wide food innovation network, which is to be launched shortly, will give businesses greater access to technology and science.
Will the Minister ensure that the relevant Ministers in the devolved legislatures across the United Kingdom are brought together to ensure that best practice in innovation is not just replicated but brought forward in each of the relevant sections across the UK?
We are working closely with the devolved Administrations as we put in place the creation of UK Research and Innovation. Excellent science and innovation will be supported through the new body, and we look forward to continuing to fund excellence in science and innovation, wherever it is found in the United Kingdom.
Innovation is key to our regional economies, helping to create high-skilled, well-paid jobs. Innovation needs investment in research and development and in small businesses if we are to make a success of new ideas. European funding has helped to grow our regional innovation infrastructure. The north-east alone will receive £130 million in research funding between now and 2020, and 72% of EU funding to UK businesses goes to small and medium-sized businesses. Will the Minister commit to matching the funding for innovation that currently comes from the European Union?
We have been monitoring the impact—any impact—on our research institutions and businesses since the referendum. The Treasury’s announcement on 13 August that it will underwrite for the life of the project all competitively bids for EU research funding that are applied for before our departure from the EU shows our determination to take action wherever necessary to maintain the global competitiveness of the UK’s research base and of the innovative businesses that win such bids.