The chancellor has announced more than £500m for infrastructure, technology and training to ‘start to close’ the productivity gap between Britain and its competitors.
Philip Hammond announced £200m for local projects to leverage private sector investment in ‘gold standard’ full-fibre broadband networks and £16m for ‘a new 5G mobile technology hub’.
The Government will also fund another 1,000 new PhD places and fellowships, focused on STEM (science technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects. Referring to the productivity gap between the UK and competitors like Germany,
Mr Hammond told MPs: ‘Investment in training, and investment in infrastructure, will start to close this gap and this government places addressing the UK’s productivity challenge at the very heart of its economic plan.’
Treasury officials said an investment of £270m in 2017-18 under the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) would ‘kick-start the development of disruptive technologies that have the potential to transform the UK economy’.
The first wave of ‘challenges’ funded from the the ISCF will include:
• developing cutting-edge artificial intelligence and robotics systems that will operate in extreme and hazardous environments, including off-shore energy, nuclear energy, space and deep mining
• accelerating patient access to new drugs and treatments through developing brand new medicine manufacturing technologies, helping to improve public health.
The Government has also published a 5G Strategy, which 'sets out steps for the UK to become a world leader in the next wave of mobile technology and services'.
• a new National 5G Innovation Network to trial and demonstrate 5G applications. The first phase will invest up to £16m in a 'cutting edge 5G facility with the technology to run the trials'.
• the Government’s response to the National Infrastructure Commission’s Connected Future report and recommendations on 5G. This will include developing commercial options for improving coverage on roads and rail, and working with Ofcom to ensure the UK has a regulatory environment fit for 5G.
In another move to bolster the Government’s industrial strategy, Mr Hammond announced that the Midlands Engine Strategy would be published tomorrow.
He also announced a new devolution deal for London that will see mayor Sadiq Khan and the boroughs receive more powers over transport and infrastructure, as well as health, criminal justice, skills and employment.