§ 35. Mr. Jacques Arnold
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he would make a statement on investment in technology in Scotland.
§ Mr. Allan Stewart
The Government believe that it is primarily industry's own responsibility to assess its markets and take the necessary investment decisions, including in technology, to ensure its successful future development. The Government's overall aim is to encourage innovation by industry without creating or perpetuating distortions in the economy. However, we do recognise that companies, particularly small and medium-sized companies, require some external assistance. One form of this assistance is intended to support precompetitive collaborative research projects. Link is an interdepartmental example of this which encourages industry to undertake joint research with higher education institutions. Another example, geared specifically to companies with less than 50 employees is the competitive small firms merit award for research and technology (SMART) scheme. These examples are just two of the number of forms of assistance available throughout the United Kingdom under the banner of the enterprise initiative, operated by the Department of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade.
In more general terms, the principal form of investment assistance, available in Scotland under the Government's regional policy, is regional selective assistance (RSA). It is a discretionary grant available throughout the assisted 177W areas for investment projects which involve expansion, modernisation or rationalisation and which create or safeguard jobs. In addition, the investment grant element of the regional enterprise grants (REG) scheme provides a simplified form of support for companies with less than 25 employees. Similarly, for companies with up to 50 employees, the innovation grant element of REG provides —within a ceiling of £25,000 grant per project—up to 50 per cent. support towards the costs of innovation projects which lead to the development and introduction of new products or processes.
In addition to assistance from Government, Scotland is fortunate in having the infrastructure of Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the local enterprise companies. It is the remit of this network to further the development of Scotland's economy and its environment. This infrastructure provides the more local, and responsive, mechanism to address the various needs of industry, including stimulating investment.