HC Deb 11 May 1988 vol 133 cc143-4W
36. Mr. Fearn

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what plans he has to encourage the growth of new technology industries in the north-west of England.

Mr. Butcher

The Government have created the necessary conditions for such growth by establishing the right climate for enterprise and the development of new industry nationally.

In the north-west, as elsewhere, my Department is actively promoting the various elements of the enterprise initiative, which give particular attention to the needs of areas such as the north-west. We are working with a number of regional bodies on initiatives to attract both new technology industries to the region, to foster the growth of new technology-based firms and the application of new technology to existing industry.

The enterprise initiative offers wide-ranging support for all business, including specialised consultancy advice for small and medium-sized firms. In the assisted areas and urban programme areas support for up to two thirds of the costs of such consultancy projects is available. Elsewhere we support 50 per cent. of the costs. We have introduced a special scheme—regional enterprise grants—to help firms in the development areas, with fewer than 25 employees to finance their innovation and investment projects, and have extended the small firms merit award for research and technology (SMART). Assistance is available towards the cost of collaborative research projects, and regional selective assistance is available for investment projects by new and existing firms in the assisted areas.

The Department has recently announced an increased grant of £450,000 to INWARD, the north-west's regional development organisation concerned with attracting inward investment, including new technology companies, to the region.

English Estates North West is helping in the development of new technology companies in the region through its investment in Wavertree technology park in Liverpool, the Salford university business park and the technology exchange at Bolton.

The Department's regional office has been closely involved in the formation of Nimtech-NW, a private sector initiative to encourage and accelerate the development of science-based industries in the north-west. Nimtech is now the focus for the north-west's regional technology centre, which, with Government funding support, is working in close co-operation with the region's eight universities and polytechnics to improve technology transfer and skills training throughout the region. The region has a well-established tradition of collaboration between industry and the academic sector. This strength is further reflected in Manchester recently attracting the new private sector and Government sponsored centre for exploitation for science and technology, and Salford university winning the competition to host the Department's national advanced robotics research centre.