Chancellor Delivers Budget 2021 to UK Parliament

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has delivered his 2021 Budget statement to Parliament.

As had been widely trailed in advance, the Budget focused on measures to mitigate the economic impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as it enters its second year.

Announcements of particular interest to the research sector include:

A £375 million UK-wide ‘Future Fund: Breakthrough’ to invest in highly innovative companies such as those working in life sciences, quantum computing, or clean tech, that are aiming to raise at least £20 million of funding

Introduction of an elite points-based visa system to help the UK attract and retain the most highly skilled, globally mobile international talent – particularly in academia, science, research and technology – from around the world

A review of R&D tax reliefs to consider all elements of the two R&D tax relief schemes, with the objective of ensuring the UK remains a competitive location for cutting edge research, that the reliefs continue to be fit for purpose and that taxpayer money is effectively targeted

£128 million for COVID-19 vaccine research and development (R&D) and manufacturing

£28 million to increase the UK’s capacity for vaccine testing and support for clinical trials, boosting Public Health England’s testing capacity and improving the UK’s ability to rapidly acquire samples of new variants of COVID-19

An additional £5 million upfront investment in clinical-scale mRNA21 vaccine manufacturing to the Centre for Process Innovation in Darlington to support the creation of a ‘library’ of mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 variants for possible rapid response deployment to allow the UK to get ahead of potential virus variants

In addition, the Chancellor confirmed that the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) now expects the economy to recover quickly when restrictions are lifted, with gross domestic product (GDP) expected to be around 0.75% higher in Spring and Summer 2021 than previously predicted. The current OBR forecast also shows that the medium-term outlook for the public finances has improved, with the current budget almost in balance, and underlying debt as a share of GDP expected to fall in the last two years of the forecast.

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