THE UK CHANCELLOR has announced his budget for 2014, with those in the technology industry seeking out any scraps the government might throw them in the way of investment or support.
George Osborne revealed plans for £74m of funding to exploit the commercial uses of graphene, touted as the strongest material ever measured, a possible replacement for silicon and the most conductive material around; and for cell therapy medical research.
The £74m will be split into two parts, with £55m going to the development of a Cell Therapy Manufacturing Centre, expected to be built by 2016 or 2017, which will "provide large-scale [manufacturing] facilities, attract inward investment & boost exports", according to BIS; and £19m "to exploit potential applications of #Graphene, [the] thinnest strongest material known".
"We will establish new centres for doctoral training, for cell therapy and for graphene - a great British discovery that we should break the habit of a lifetime with and commercially develop in Britain," Osborne said.
The £19m will be invested over five years, with £14m for the Graphene Applications Innovation Centre and £5m towards the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre in Manchester, where the material originated from.
A surprise annoucement from the budget was a plan to set up a big data research centre in the name of Alan Turing. The government has earmarked £42m for the Alan Turing Institute, which will focus on big data and algorithm research in an as-yet undecided location.
Osborne said the new centre is vital to help ensure that the UK becomes a world leader in these areas of information technology (IT) innovation, adding that it will be a fitting tribute to Turing to ensure his legacy is remembered in this way.
"In my maiden speech here in this House I spoke of Alan Turing, the codebreaker who lived in my constituency, who did more than almost any other single person to win the war, and who was persecuted for his sexuality by the country he helped save. I am delighted that he has finally received a posthumous Royal Pardon," the chancellor said during his budget speech.
"Now, in his honour, we will found the Alan Turing Institute to ensure Britain leads the way again in the use of big data and algorithm research. I am determined that our country is going to out-compete, outsmart and outdo the rest of the world."
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) confirmed that £42m will be invested the centre.
£42m in #Budget2014 to create Alan Turing Institute specialising in world-class data science— Dept for Business (@bisgovuk) March 19, 2014
Aside from the Turing and graphene news, there were little in the way of concrete plans for the IT industry to get excited about in today's budget.
Osborne also announced £170m to help businesses take on over 100,000 young apprentices plus £20m for degree-level or postgraduate apprentice schemes, and tax breaks to support small businesses. In theory, these moves could aid the IT sector by enabling more IT specialists to enter the workforce and offer aid for technology startups, but this will depend on how the schemes are managed. µ