Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for coming together. Can I say what a pleasure it is to be here at Daresbury? After a week in which we have been talking and looking at how people have tragically been tearing things down in our country, it is great to come here and see how people are really building and creating for the future.
I am delighted to announce today that there is going to be an Enterprise Zone here at the Daresbury Science Park, and I just wanted to say a word or two about what an Enterprise Zone involves, why it is so important and why I think that it can really work well to create jobs and growth and investment. Because that is the truth today, we have got two enormous challenges in our country: a challenge of building a bigger and stronger society and putting those riots of the last week behind us, but also a massive challenge of building a strong and successful economy. The unemployment figures today, where tragically unemployment has risen, show just what a challenge we have.
An Enterprise Zone basically means that it is going to be easier to come and set up a business here. They will pay less in rates, there will be fewer restrictions on planning, there will be less regulation, there will be faster broadband speeds and there will be more investment in the vital infrastructure that you need to make this science park an even bigger success than it is today.
Why do Enterprise Zones matter? Why are they important? Well, we have a massive need in our country to rebalance our economy, to rebalance it between North and South . We need to rebalance it between too much emphasis on banking and finance and housing and not enough on science and technology and manufacturing, and we also need to rebalance our economy between the public sector and the private sector. We need the private sector to be the engine of growth and jobs; the good news is the private sector has actually created around half a million jobs over the last year but we need it to go further and faster to make sure there are good, well-paid jobs for all our people. That is why Enterprise Zones matter.
Why do we think this is the right place, the right zone and why do we think this will work better than Enterprise Zones have done in the past? There is always a danger when you say, ‘ Let’s set up a new situation where you pay less tax, less regulation, less rates and all the rest of it ‘, that you just move a business from one place to another place. Now, we are determined that won’t happen with these Enterprise Zones and that is why we picked, as one of the Enterprise Zones, or rather you have picked, your local Enterprise Partnerships have picked, Daresbury Science Park , because you are building on massive success.
You have got a brilliant collaboration here of government-sponsored science, university-sponsored science, defence-industry science, health science, but also a thriving private sector and I have seen some of the brilliant businesses that you have here on the science park. So, by having an Enterprise Zone here we are not just taking a bit of land and saying, ‘Come and locate your business’, we are saying, ‘ Here is a successful model, here is great collaboration between scientists and businesses, here is something to build on and an Enterprise Zone can make Daresbury even more successful in the future than it has been today.’
I have been really inspired by what I have seen here today and the businesses that I have spoken with; if we look at where the jobs and growth are going to come from in the future it is not going to be by more government jobs, it is probably not going to be by more jobs in very large corporations, it is going to be the small and medium-sized enterprises, it is going to be the start-up businesses. Some of the ones I have just been talking to employ three or four or maybe 10 or 20 people; it will be those businesses that can double and treble their employment capability over the coming years that will make sure that we have good jobs for all the people who want them in our country.
So I find it very inspiring to come and listen to you today and very inspiring to see what Daresbury already is and can be. I am delighted to announce the Enterprise Zone that will be established here at the Daresbury Science Park and I am also very pleased to try and answer any of your questions. Thank you very much indeed.
Prime Minister, have you been to Daresbury before?
No, I have not, I am very pleased to be here. I think actually the situation with yourselves and Harwell is one where you compete but you also collaborate as well and I think that is a thoroughly good thing.
What I find exciting about this is that it is quite clear to me that Britain does have a good lead in science-based businesses. We are in a difficult economic situation where we had to make a lot of spending reductions, but we actually decided not to cut the science budget, to maintain the science budget and I think this is a good justification of that, that it is those science-based businesses and jobs we need in the future.
And actually I think also if you look at business location and how businesses are going to succeed in the future, there is a real case to say we need more hubs; hubs based around universities , obviously we have that with Oxford, Cambridge, with the great universities in Manchester and John Moores in Liverpool , but also science parks like this I think can actually be great hubs for future business growth.
And today, as well as announcing the Enterprise Zone here, we are also announcing an Enterprise Zone at Harwell and also another one at Sandwich on the site where one of those great science-based businesses is actually reducing its employment but is maintaining quite a lot employment, Pfizer in Sandwich, to try and make sure that continues to be an engine of growth and jobs and research and development.
Thank you. I am delighted to hear your plans for the campus here and I absolutely agree with you that the SMEs in buildings such as this should be the employers of the future. The problem that I certainly face, and I think I share with many companies in this building, is that funding is available in the early stage; seed funding you can obtain, prototype funding and grants you can obtain, and indeed even venture capital to some extent you can obtain.
When that technology is successful, the gap is in taking it to market and that is where I think the problem really exists. Success for many of us would be selling our technology to a large American company or European company, and we wouldn’t be creating jobs in this country. Is that something that could be looked at?
I think this is absolutely vital. I hear this a lot, that as you say there is quite a lot of seed money, there are the R&D tax credits; there is R&D support for the very early-stage development. Also, our universities create a lot of intellectual property, we apply for a lot of patents in this country, we are a very inventive people. I think the problem then comes for the next stage. We are also quite good at the stage after that, we have a brilliant stock market, AIM market, if people get to a stage where they are ready to list and grow their business I think we are good at that stage. It is the in between, and one of the businesses outside was raising this with me.
It is that when you need between £100,000 and £800,000 of capital to expand the business, that is where I think the Germans and the Italians often get ahead of us. Now, one of the things that we did in the last budget was a massive expansion of some of the venture capital and enterprise initiative schemes. I would urge you to look at them, because I think that is a way of getting private-sector capital into the expansion of your businesses. It is certainly not the last word on it; I have a specialist on this subject in my office in Number 10 Downing Street, who comes straight out of finance in technology, and if you have specific ideas for schemes where you think you could lever in more capital to get that early-stage development done, please get in contact with him. This is exactly what we want to promote through budgets and other things.
Prime Minister, for small companies like us to grow we require really good science graduates coming through from education. With university education cuts and increasing fees, with concerns about the standard of science-based education in the country at large, clearly small countries need to be thinking about how to get the best graduates. Have you got anything you can tell us?
Yes, first of all, the background to a lot of this is that we inherited a budget deficit where we simply had to make spending reductions. It seemed to me the most important thing was to try and make spending reductions in a way that did not damage our long-term economic future. That is why we did not make further cuts in capital spending and that is why we did not cut the science budget. That is why when it came to universities, instead of making a big cut to university funding, or reducing the number of students going to university, we introduced a difficult reform, but a reform that meant that we were going to pay for the continued expansion of universities not via taxpayers, but via successful graduates. I would argue that the university funding reforms, difficult as they are, are actually a key part of delivering long-term growth to our economy.
Other countries around the world that do not take this difficult decision, will find they will have to either cut university student numbers or they will have to cut university funding, because the money has to come from somewhere. There are only two places where it can come from really: it can either come from taxpayers or it can come from successful graduates. What we are saying is that if you earn under £21,000 you do not have to pay back any of the money that you have borrowed, but as soon as you are earning over £21,000 you have to start making a contribution. I also think it will be a good reform in another long-term way, which will directly help businesses such as yours and science-based businesses, which is why we are creating basically a bit more of a market in higher education. People going into university and universities themselves will be thinking harder about the value of the degree that they are either about to take or they are about to offer.
Now, we have had this debate in this country sometimes about ‘this degree isn’t really a serious degree’ or ‘that degree is a bit of a Mickey Mouse degree.’ Well, soon we are going to find out whether that is right. I think often that has been wrong; it has been condescending. We now have more of a market where the student is going to be thinking, ‘ Is this degree going to help me in my career, help me with my job, and help me with my future?’
Universities are going to be thinking, ‘Are these courses really good value for money? Is this what business wants? Is this what the country needs?’ Businesses themselves will be far more able to go to universities and say, ‘Look, you are not actually giving me what I need. These are the sorts of graduates I want, these are the sorts of courses you need to be promoting.’ Here you have fantastic experiments in things like particle physics; well, if you have not got enough particle physicists, there is now a way to change that.
The point is this: if you have not got enough particle physicists you can now go to the universities and say, ‘Look, there are good jobs available in this discipline, you should be training more graduates in that way.’ The old system did not respond to demand. The new system, difficult as it is, will make sure we are not cutting universities, but will also be making sure that business will get the sort of quality of graduates it needs for the future. A difficult reform, but no one ever said reform and dealing with big deficits was going to be easy. It is not, but you have to do it in a way that helps the economy rather than harms it.
Can I thank you all very much for coming together today? Can I thank you for what you are doing here at Daresbury? As I said, I found it very inspiring. I am delighted to be here in person to congratulate you in person for getting the award of this Enterprise Zone, which I think will take a great place to even greater heights in the future.Thank you very much indeed, thank you.