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On 29 October the Chancellor Philip Hammond presented the Autumn Budget to Parliament and declared that ‘austerity coming to an end’ as he set out his budget proposals and economic forecast.

The Chancellor demonstrated continued commitment to research and innovation with the announcement of a new £50 million per year fund to address key issues in areas such as public health and cyber security.

The fund is intended to support joint projects between Government and Industry and will contribute to the Government’s wider Industrial Strategy and commitment to increase R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP by 2027.

The Chancellor also announced the provision of £150m of funding for fellowships to support and encourage people from overseas to come and work in the UK.

Dr Mark Downs FRSB, chief executive of the Royal Society of Biology said: “The RSB is particularly pleased to hear of the Chancellor’s continued commitment to research and innovation.

“The Government’s commitment to raising R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP by 2027 is now a key foundation for the science community’s confidence, so I am are pleased to see the initial allocation towards it in this year’s budget.

 “However, more detail is needed, especially about the proportion of public vs private investment that is needed to keep Government on track to meet its target. Making the right public investments to encourage private investment is a key ingredient.

“The Government’s recognition of the importance and contribution of non-UK nationals on the UK science sector and wider economy is also welcome.

“We hope that the Government will build on these fellowships to encourage skilled and individuals, and those with potential, to study, work and live in the UK.”

Other announcements in the Chancellor’s budget included an additional £500 million to support Britain’s preparations to leave the European Union.

Prime Minister Theresa May also revealed the Government’s commitment to increase funding for Mental Health Services earlier this month, with the Chancellor expanding on the PM’s commitment with the announcement of £2bn towards mental health services, which will form part of an extra £20.5bn funding for the NHS over the next 5 years.

Plastic waste is a key global challenge that has recently received greater attention. The Government’s stated commitment to reducing plastic waste is behind the Chancellor’s announcement of a new tax on plastic packaging, which contains 30% or less recyclable material, and £10 million to address abandoned waste sites.

Hammond has received heavy criticism over what some critics declare a lack of provisions within the Budget to tackle the issues of climate change and air quality. However, the Budget included a relevant announcement on the Industrial Energy Transformation Fund to sit within the Industrial Strategy.

The fund, which will be granted £90 million in 2021-22, aims to help businesses reduce their carbon outputs by supporting the transition to lower energy use.

Similarly, the Chancellor’s announcement of a capital bonus of £400 million for schools has been heavily criticised. The terms of the bonus are that it can only be spent on capital projects, such as equipment and maintenance, rather than on much needed projects and resource to upskill and retain teachers.

The Campaign for Science and Engineering have responded to the Autumn Budget and published a useful summary of how the budget affects the wider science, technology and engineering communities. 

A full summary of the Autumn Budget 2018 has been provided by the House of Commons Library further detailing the specific spending announcements and the economic forecasts made by the Chancellor.