Budget announces Levelling Up investment zones as '12 potential Canary Wharfs'

Liverpool and Manchester councils are set to be awarded investment in the Chancellor’s spring budget on Wednesday 15 February. Credit: PA Images

A dozen regions across the North and the Midlands will receive funding aimed at 'supercharging' growth as part of the government's Levelling Up strategy, the budget has announced.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, described them as "12 potential canary wharfs."

The 12 new investment zones will be clustered around a university or other research institution, and hope to bring growth to areas which have "traditionally underperformed economically".

The Levelling Up plan, was announced by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt at the budget on Wednesday 15 March, may include Greater Manchester, the Liverpool Combined Authority and South Yorkshire Combined Authority.

The shortlist includes places 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 Chancellor hopes they will accelerate research and development in the UK’s most promising industries. 

The funding can be used for tax relief, to improve skills, provide specialist business support, improve the planning system or for local infrastructure. 

The Chancellor 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.”

The investment zones will focus on areas with research institutions such as universities and hoped will drive growth in one of the UK’s key sectors.

These include technology, creative industries, life sciences, advanced manufacturing and the green sector.

Levelling Up Secretary, Michael Gove, said:  “Our new investment zones and Levelling Up Partnerships will deliver more jobs, better services and more opportunities for local people.”

The Chancellor is also expected to propel Levelling Up partnerships across England. Credit: PA Images

The Chancellor is also expected to propel Levelling Up partnerships across England, helping to regenerate places in need of levelling up.

Local councils, MPs, businesses and civic leaders are being enlisted to help understand the challenges and opportunities of each area, and to unblock obstacles to any regeneration.

It builds on the success of trials in places such as Blackpool which lead to a change of use of a central government building that was holding up a £100 million regeneration plan.  

Innovation clusters in Glasgow, Greater Manchester and the West Midlands are to be given £100 million of investment in 26 research and development projects to accelerate their growth.

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. 

It is hoped the projects will attract private investment to develop technology, create new jobs, and boost regional economic growth. 

Through the programme, local leaders will be given power to support economic growth within their regions.

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.

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.”

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