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£1.25bn support package for innovative companies

Package includes £750m for SMEs focusing on R&D as well £500m for high-growth companies

A £1.25 billion government support package that aims to protect innovative companies struggling during the coronavirus pandemic has been welcomed by the bioindustry sector, which is now also calling for R&D tax credit to be brought forward as an additional support.

The package, announced by the Treasury on 20 April, includes £750m loan scheme for small and medium-sized businesses focusing on R&D as well as a £500m grants and loan scheme for high-growth companies, called the Future Fund.

Mark Walport, chief executive of UK Research and Innovation, said the new funding would provide “immediate cash flow support to small companies who are developing the products and services of the future, to continue this work throughout the crisis and be an engine of growth once the outbreak is over”.

The £750m funding for SMEs, will be provided by the national innovation agency Innovate UK starting in mid-May, with at least 2,500 firms expected to benefit.

The £500 million Future Fund is also set to launch in May to provide companies with between £125,000 and £5m from the government, and with private investors expected to match the government commitment.

The government is committing an initial £250 million in funding towards the scheme, which will initially be open until the end of September.

The announcement follows calls for measures to lessen the impact of the virus on the UK’s biotech sector.

“We are pleased that the government will deliver a package of support for the UK’s most innovative companies that are facing financial difficulties due to Covid-19 disruption,” Martin Turner, head of policy and public affairs at the BioIndustry Association, told Research Professional News.

But the trade body had also called for the advance payment of future R&D tax credit claims as well as expedited outstanding R&D tax credit claims, which was not included in the announcement.

“Unlike what has been announced today, all companies across the sector would benefit as all make R&D credit claims,” said Turner. “This would be money that the companies would be getting anyway just brought forward by a year. So would not be additional cost to the taxpayer.

“We strongly urge the Treasury to bring forward this measure.”