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Research and Development: Private Investment

Volume 743: debated on Wednesday 10 January 2024

1. What recent discussions she has had with Cabinet colleagues on trends in the level of private investment in research and development in the last 12 months. (900779)

13. What recent discussions she has had with Cabinet colleagues on trends in the level of private investment in research and development in the last 12 months. (900793)

This Government have a fantastic track record of mobilising private investment in research and innovation, alongside delivering the largest ever public spending, which will reach £20 billion a year next financial year. In November, the global investment summit saw commitments to invest almost £30 billion in the UK, including the decision by Flagship Pioneering, one of the world’s leading life science investors, to have its first international base in the UK.

Hertford and Stortford lies at the heart of the innovation corridor, so private investment is very important to businesses in my constituency. Does the Minister have any assessment of the likely impact of the Mansion House reforms on that trend and the great track record of private investment?

Like its Member of Parliament, Hertford and Stortford is indeed innovative. The Mansion House reforms, which in my previous role I helped the Chancellor to deliver, will unlock an estimated £50 billion of investment to scale up high-growth companies across the whole United Kingdom, including in my hon. Friend’s constituency. That sits alongside our £250 million initiative for long-term investment for technology and science—LIFTS—which will focus particularly on British pensioners investing in long-term growth opportunities in tech and the life sciences. When it comes to British innovation, this Government are all in, and I hope that in 2024 financial institutions will be too.

In October, the Government announced the £60 million regional innovation fund to boost university support for regional economic growth. Wales was allocated £3.4 million through the Barnett formula. However, disappointingly, there is no evidence of that money having been spent on its intended purpose in Wales. What assistance can the Minister provide to encourage the Welsh Government to invest Wales’s proportion of the regional innovation fund in boosting the Welsh economy?

As my hon. Friend said, the recently announced regional innovation fund is providing £60 million of funding across the United Kingdom to harness the strength of our universities. It is intensely disappointing that the Labour Government in Wales have not seen fit to spend that in the same way. Ultimately, that is a decision for the Labour Government, and I am sure that the electorate will hold them to account for that.

Private investment will need to ratchet up significantly if it is to offset the loss to the research sector that we are seeing as international student applications plummet as a result of Government policy. What are the Minister and his colleagues doing to offset that decline in resources?

Once again, it is an enormous shame that the hon. Member for the wonderful cluster of Cambridgeshire is so keen to talk down the United Kingdom at every opportunity. This Government are mobilising more public funding for research and development than ever before, and mobilising private investment capital on the back of that—£2 for every £1 that the Government put in.

Yesterday I was talking to a Minister in the Lobby, and he referred to how impressed he was by the Northern Ireland workforce. I am equally impressed, as the Member for Strangford. When it comes to research and development across the United Kingdom, what is Northern Ireland getting to help our workforce grow, to train our people and to make us an integral part of this United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?

Having visited Northern Ireland, I am aware of just how innovative and highly skilled it is, and how much opportunity and headroom there is. It is very important to me, as the Minister for Science and Research, that Northern Ireland punches above its weight. I would be delighted to visit Northern Ireland to meet businesses, entrepreneurs and innovators there.