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Northern powerhouse: Chancellor visits science hubs in the north-west

Chancellor visits major research and development hubs in the north-west to build further on his vision for a northern powerhouse.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne today visited two of the country’s influential science hubs based in the north-west to see how some of the north-west’s share of £5.9 billion of government investment in science will contribute to creating a northern powerhouse.

As the Chancellor announced at Autumn Statement, the government is investing £5.9 billion in science as part of long-term economic plan. The Chancellor visited two sites which have benefitted: the Hartree Centre in Daresbury has received £113 million of government funding to substantially expand one of the world’s highest performing computers. At Thornton Science Park in Ince, the Natural Environment Research Council and British Geological Survey, working with the University of Chester, have received a share of £31 million of investment to researching energy technology.

The visits come a week after the Prime Minister and Chancellor set out their new six-point long term economic plan for the north-west. A key cornerstone of which is their ambition to make the north-west a global centre of outstanding scientific innovation, with a particular focus on material science, biomedicine, supercomputing and energy with major investments in the excellent universities and NHS teaching hospitals of the region.

The Chancellor started the day by officially opening the new Thornton Science Park in Ince, Cheshire. Part of the University of Chester, the park estimates it will contribute around £205 million a year to the regional economy. The funding announced at Autumn Statement will help fund a new centre at Thornton, conducting world leading research on a wide range of energy technologies.

He was welcomed by the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Chester, Professor Tim Wheeler, who showed him the latest analytical laboratories being used by both students and industrial partners, and described the ambitious plans that the University has for an integrated approach to academic and commercial developments over the next five years designed to support economic developments in the north-west.

As part of the visit the Chancellor also met with Matt Tuck, the Managing Director of Mdecon, a newly formed SME working in the park, which increased turnover by 25% following government investment. The company has world class problem solving capability across sectors and is currently working on ground breaking technology for metals surface decontamination which will result in significant reductions in environmental impact and waste generation, suitable for oil & gas, nuclear and other global sectors.

The Chancellor then went on to visit the recently opened Hartree Centre in Daresbury, to see how £113 million of government funding is supporting their high performance computer collaboration with IBM. The partnership includes a 3D visualisation suite, which allows major British companies like Bentley and Unilever to quickly test complex designs without having to create costly and time-consuming physical prototypes.

During the visit the Chancellor also launched a consultation on research and development tax credits to ensure that small firms have the best possible government support to invest in research and innovation.

Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne said:

Science is a key part of the government’s long term economic plan, and lies at the heart of our plan to build a northern powerhouse.

I’ve prioritised science investment in difficult times because our ongoing ability to capitalise on our cutting edge science base will create new jobs, innovative businesses and allow us to take the lead in new markets. That’s why I’m launching a consultation on research and development tax credits today, to ensure that we’re supporting Britain’s small businesses as much as we can.

Visiting these two innovative science parks, just twenty minutes apart but both home to extraordinary businesses conducting cutting edge research, has reinforced my determination to ensure that the north leads not only the UK, but the world, in scientific investment and innovation.

At Thornton Science Park, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Chester, Professor Tim Wheeler, said:

This is a far sighted investment by government to ensure Britain’s future energy security over the coming decades in a manner that is both sustainable and sensitive to the need to protect our environment.

Michael Gleaves, Head of Business Development for the Hartree Centre, said:

This investment will support one of the world’s leading high performance computing centres, and the next generation of scientific discovery; ensuring UK science and industry remain at the forefront of global research and development. The next generation of scientific discovery will be data-driven. It is really encouraging that the government recognises the critical role that the relationship between science, innovation and industry plays in supporting economic growth in the UK.

Published 16 January 2015