We welcome the measures to support innovation, including the increase to the R&D tax credit for SMEs to 230% and the credit for large firms to 11% - this will provide UK businesses with a boost to invest and should ensure manufacturers and industry can continue to innovate.The recognition of the importance of science and innovation in local economic growth is also good news, as along with the boost for infrastructure, these measures will enable businesses to benefit from improved links and will help to rebalance the economy.Having said that, we would have liked to have seen greater long-term commitments on measures to increase innovation and R&D, with a focus on the commercialisation of ideas, in order for the UK to compete in the global market.Ahead of the Autumn Statement, we wanted to see action taken on reforming the outdated business rates system, and although we are pleased to see that they are capping the increase and will be extending relief for small businesses, we await to see the outcome of the full review.As advocates of the value of fit-for-purpose, tailored apprenticeships for industry, we welcomed the announcement from the Chancellor that employers will no longer pay National Insurance contributions for apprentices under the age of 25.A number of companies within the glass industry already take on apprentices and we hope that this measure encourages more within the industry to recruit young people, grow the talent pipeline and mitigate the challenge of our ageing workforce. As the backbone of our economy, we also hope this enables more SMEs to take on apprentices. It’s important that we support their growth and so, government needs to ensure that this incentive isn’t overshadowed by red tape and bureaucracy.
With a Sheffield headquarters and many of our member companies based in the North, we were also encouraged by the plans to create a northern powerhouse. Improving transport links and investing in science and technology through the commitment to an institute for advanced material science in Manchester, with satellite branches in Leeds, Liverpool and Sheffield are welcomed. We hope this opens doors for other areas in the North to follow Great Manchester and be granted devolution of power. We look forward to hearing more on government’s plans for this in the coming months.
As an energy intensive industry (EII), we were hoping to see some reforms to the EII compensation package in terms of the scale, scope and budget, to fully compensate all EIIs from the costs of the Carbon Floor and Renewable Energy Schemes, as well as for government to consider compensation for the impact of Renewable Subsidies. We hope to see these issues addressed in the 2015 Budget.
Overall, we were encouraged by the measures announced, particularly the focus on supporting innovation, improving infrastructure, encouraging investment in skills and people and the creation of the northern powerhouse.