Alongside a Budget that focused heavily on the immediate actions required to return to growth and respond to the economic impacts of Covid-19, the Government published Build Back Better, its plan for growth, a new economic strategy for the post-Brexit, post-pandemic world with technology, net zero and innovation at its heart.
Autumn’s Comprehensive Spending Review will still be significant in putting this to work longer term, but Build Back Better makes clear that today’s Budget, and recent announcements such as the £800m ARIA and the Green Industrial Revolution, are part of a bigger picture for the Government. Its three pillars are infrastructure, skills and innovation. New strategies expected over the next year, such as a Hydrogen Strategy, Innovation Strategy, a Transport Decarbonisation Strategy, and Digital Strategy, will all connect back to Build Back Better.
It aims to build a connecting economic narrative for the future of the UK, with leadership in science and innovation, and the transition to net zero, all creating transformative changes in productivity and quality of life in regions across the country.
Our highlights included:
- The new Future Fund: Breakthrough, a £375m public-private fund to invest in promising, R&D-intensive companies ready to scale up with equity rounds of over £20m, showing Government’s seriousness about a greater appetite for risk and supporting companies directly.
- The launch of the new National Infrastructure Bank, expected to deliver £12bn in public and sector project investment from Spring onwards and drive forward new net zero projects.
- Freeports, eight new economic zones spread across nearly every region, with special regulatory, development and taxation rules to incentivise high-tech investment.
- Several commitments on green finance, including a change to the Bank of England’s remit to include environmental sustainability, and new green savings products and bonds.
Levelling up remains a key focus. Alongside freeports, the location of the new National Infrastructure Bank in Leeds and the Treasury’s new Darlington hub make that abundantly clear.
Undoubtedly, the focus today will be on measures taken by the Chancellor to safeguard the economy as the UK travels on the roadmap towards the end of COVID-19 restrictions. But today’s Build Back Better plan demonstrates that when the Conservatives go to the electorate at the end of this Parliament, they will be expecting to do so having established a more productive economy that leads in innovative industries, and is making strides towards a lower carbon energy system.