From education to employment

Chancellor to supercharge local growth

jeremy hunt
  • The Chancellor set to announce 12 Investment Zones to drive business investment and level up, each backed with £80 million.
  • Investment for roll out of Levelling up Partnerships, helping to regenerate places across England.
  • £100 million to be shared across Glasgow, Greater Manchester and the West Midlands supporting them to become globally competitive centres for research and innovation

The Chancellor will supercharge growth at the Spring Budget on Wednesday (15 March), as he is expected to announce a plan for 12 high-growth Investment Zones and a pioneering new approach to accelerate research and development in the UK’s most budding industries.

Jeremy Hunt is expected to announce plans to enter discussions with places to host 12 high growth Investment Zones, each backed with £80 million over five years including generous tax incentives, bringing opportunity into areas which have traditionally underperformed economically. 

Investment Zones will be clustered around research Institutions such as universities and will be focused on driving growth in one of the UK’s key sectors: Technology, Creative industries, Life Sciences, Advanced Manufacturing and the Green sector.

As well as for tax reliefs, funding can be used to improve skills, provide specialist business support, improve the planning system, or for local infrastructure.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt said:

“True levelling up must be about local wealth creation and local decision-making to unblock obstacles to regeneration. 

“From unleashing opportunity through new Investment Zones, to a new approach to accelerating R&D in city regions, we are delivering on our key priority to supercharge growth across the country”.

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said:

“Levelling up means backing local growth across the UK, driving innovation to attract investment and putting power into the hands of local communities so they can reach their full potential. Our new investment zones and Levelling Up Partnerships will deliver more jobs, better services and more opportunities for local people.”

Science, Innovation and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan said:

“This government has made clear its aim for the United Kingdom to be transformed into a scientific and technologic superpower, not only pushing our country forward, but the whole world.

“Cutting-edge innovation starts at a local level. That’s why these plans to invest £100 million into 26 groundbreaking projects in Glasgow, Greater Manchester and the West Midlands are so important, supporting them to become the future centres of research and innovation in the United Kingdom.”

Eight places in England have been shortlisted to host Investment Zones, with the intention to agree plans with local partners by the end of the year. This complements and builds on the government’s existing Freeport programme, which deliver investment on specific sites benefitting from tax and customs incentives, key to driving productivity and growth.

The eight places are those covered by:

  • The proposed East Midlands Mayoral Combined County Authority
  • Greater Manchester Mayoral Combined Authority
  • Liverpool City Region Mayoral Combined Authority
  • The proposed North East Mayoral Combined Authority
  • South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority
  • Tees Valley Mayoral Combined Authority
  • West Midlands Mayoral Combined Authority
  • West Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority

The government is also working closely with the devolved administrations to establish how Investment Zones in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be delivered, which will account for the four final locations. These Investment Zones will drive growth in five key sectors: life sciences, creative industries, digital technology, advanced manufacturing, and green industries.

The Chancellor is also expected to provide investment for the roll out of Levelling up Partnerships across England, helping to regenerate places in need of levelling up.

The programme will involve ‘deep dives’ carried out by a partnership of local councils, MPs business and civic leaders to gather a holistic picture of a place and its unique challenges and opportunities, and identify cross-Government interventions to unblock obstacles to regeneration. 

It builds on the success of initial trials in Grimsby, which saw cross-government working to help avoid the effective closure of the town’s fish processing sector, and in Blackpool which unlocked a change of use of a central government building that was holding up a £100 million regeneration plan.  The Government will work closely with the Devolved Administrations and local government to explore potential options in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. 

The Chancellor is also set to accelerate the growth of high-potential innovation clusters in Glasgow, Greater Manchester and West Midlands with £100 million of investment in 26 transformative R&D projects. The Innovation Accelerators programme is a new approach to supporting these city regions to become major, globally competitive centres for research and innovation and will support levelling up. The projects will attract private investment to develop the technologies of tomorrow, creating new jobs, and boosting regional economic growth. 

Through the programme, local leaders are empowered to harness innovation in support of regional economic growth through a pioneering a new model of R&D decision-making. Working closely with Innovate UK, partnerships between local government, business and R&D institutions in the three city regions have led on selecting the 26 projects. This includes:

  • A University of Birmingham-led project to accelerate new health and medical technologies,
  • The Manchester Turing Innovation Hub linking business to cutting edge AI research and technologies to help enhance their productivity
  • A net zero project led by University of Strathclyde to accelerate the adoption of automated ultrasonic inspection during welding and additive manufacturing.


Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire, said:

“West Yorkshire has a strong and thriving economy, and I’m pleased the Government has recognised the strength of our innovation by choosing to work with us to deliver an investment zone. It will provide further opportunities for people across the region, as well as our world leading higher educational facilities, building on our expertise in digital, technology, and health and life sciences.

“I look forward to working with government to develop the investment zone policy, unlocking our potential and ensuring our local economy thrives for years to come.”

Ben Houchen, Mayor of Tees Valley, said:

“The introduction of an Investment Zone in the Tees Valley would be a huge boost to our plans to level up and redevelop our town centres. We have just established two Mayoral Development Corporations which will give us the powers to bring about real change to our town centres. The addition of an Investment Zone would help turbo-charge these plans and accelerate our vison.

“Investment and jobs are the fundamentals of levelling up and this would represent a further delivery on the promise the Government made to rebalance the economy of this country. We have been working for some time on Investment Zones, and I am incredibly supportive of this proposal.”

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said:

“Our Plan for Growth is central to how we drive forward our regional economic recovery as we bounce back from the temporary setback inflicted by the pandemic. The right mix of devolved powers and investment incentives will help turn that plan into action. 

“That’s why this Investment Zones announcement is very welcome news – supporting our efforts to attract new businesses, create high quality jobs and supercharge our economy. Investment Zones will make a valuable contribution towards enhancing prosperity for residents right across our region and I look forward to working with local leaders to decide how we best take advantage of this exciting opportunity.”  

Oliver Coppard, Mayor of South Yorkshire, said:

“South Yorkshire’s steel and energy powered the world into the first industrial revolution, and we know we have the potential to lead the world into the next one. We’re home to businesses and institutions working at the forefront of advanced manufacturing, health sciences and green technology. We’re not just imagining a better future, we’re already making it.

“Investment Zones give us the chance to do even more, so I’m pleased South Yorkshire has been recognised as one of the regions able to make the most of that opportunity. I’m looking forward to working with government to design how that works so we can build a bigger, better economy here in South Yorkshire.”

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