Viewpoint: Deciphering the Budget by Dr Andy Levers from Virtual Engineering Centre

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Dr Andy Levers, Technical Director, Virtual Engineering Centre


Liverpool City Region has welcomed the positive announcements from last week’s Budget, which include a new approach to developing tech start-ups and a focus on improving connectivity across the board. That said, there were some other key points seemingly missed off the Chancellor’s announcement – there was no mention of the apprenticeship levy, for example.

Here, I’ll look at the top five takeaways from the announcement and discuss what they mean for Liverpool City Region.


  1. Plans to have a tech business founded “every half an hour”.

Needless to say this is a welcome announcement for the UK as a nation and for its innovative cities – Liverpool included. It’s fantastic to see we are raising our ambition in digital technologies, whilst looking forward to developing new technologies and skills even further.

Putting the focus on creating more tech start-ups is a great target and pledging this level of commitment and investment will facilitate the help and support businesses need to commercialise great ideas.

The ERDF funded LCR 4.0 programme is already providing this type of support to local manufacturing start-ups and SMEs, helping them to develop digital strategies, adopt Industry 4.0 technologies, improve productivity and enhance strengths within the supply chain. LCR 4.0 also aims to facilitate collaborative projects amongst the SMEs, creating an intermediary channel for them to better connect with each other in order to overcome barriers to collaboration.


  1. For the first time in decades, Britain is genuinely at the forefront of this technological revolution.

Phillip Hammond summed it up perfectly when he said: “For the first time in decades, Britain is genuinely at the forefront of a technological revolution, not just in our universities and research institutes, but this time in the commercial development labs of our great companies and on the factory floors and business parks across the land.”

The Liverpool City Region is up there with the cities leading technological developments in the UK. LCR 4.0 has supported 100 SMEs within its first year alone and gained national recognition as a ‘best practice initiative’ in the Government’s Made Smarter Review.


  1. More than £20bn in new investment in UK scale-up businesses

This is great news for the UK economy and businesses from across the country. Evidence gathered by the LCR 4.0 project reinforces the view that the UK is lagging behind its European counterparts in the race to scale-up and to embrace the technologies of the future. In contrast, a high number of SMEs in Germany, for example, have already adopted innovative technologies in their everyday business processes, allowing them to grow and scale-up.

Programmes, such as LCR 4.0, highlight how practical business support and access to expertise can be game-changing for local businesses that are looking to scale-up.


  1. A further £2.3bn allocated for investment in research and development

This is arguably one of the most welcome announcements to come from Mr Hammond’s Budget, especially given that the funding will be more evenly distributed as outlined in the Industrial Strategy white paper earlier this week. Usually we see almost half of all research funding go to the South East and just 20 per cent to the North.

As the Chancellor said, the money represents “the first strides towards the ambition of our industrial strategy to drive up R&D investment across the economy to 2.4 per cent of GDP.”


  1. More than £500m pledged for AI, fibre broadband and 5G mobile networks

The fact that government is acknowledging the impact that technologies, such as AI, will have on the economy is a boost to innovative businesses in the UK. This focus on emerging technologies will help to develop better connectivity and introduce high speed networks that are fundamental to the infrastructure developments required to sustain long-term business growth.

What’s more, enhanced connectivity will also improve the power of the Internet of Things, allowing for technological devices to be connected and communicate with each other quicker and easier, helping to enrich business decision times while processing more data in less time.


  1. £1.7bn transport fund for city regions to be spent by mayors

While this announcement has faced some criticism in Liverpool City Region given the disproportionate amount allocated in comparison with Greater Manchester, it is testament to the impact that the Metro Mayor is having on the region.

This investment signals growth and infrastructure development, as well as an integrated technical policy, including the introduction of integrated transport and technology, including electric vehicles.

Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor, Steve Rotheram, has visited the Virtual Engineering Centre and Sensor City on several occasions, allowing him to further explore what is already on offer within Liverpool City Region and how LCR 4.0 is working to help local SMEs to grow and create sustainable plans for the future.