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Budget 2009: Government’s billion pound backing for green tech and Digital Britain vision

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22nd Apr 2009
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Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, has announced a raft of supporting measures to develop low carbon industries, green technologies, and digital communications, as part of this year’s budget.

During the statement, Mr Darling confirmed that £750m would be made available for emerging low carbon industries and green technologies through the creation of a new Strategic Investment Fund. The fund forms part of a £1bn package, which the government said will help the UK “combat climate change.” An additional £2.5bn of support for businesses looking to invest in those perceived high-growth industries was described by the Chancellor as, “essential if we are to prepare for the future.”

Confirmation of renewed investment in green technologies came as Darling announced the world’s first ever “carbon budget”, with a targeted reduction in the UK’s carbon emissions of 34% by 2020. The Chancellor’s announcement of the new target precedes the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit, which takes place in December.

Support of green technologies and low carbon industries in the budget came just days after the Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson, issued a policy statement, ‘Building Britain’s Future – New Industry, New Jobs’, which revealed the government’s plans to strengthen the emerging sector. Speaking at Loughborough University’s Innovation Centre, Mandelson commented that: “The world’s economy, emerging from the downturn, is set to double in size, creating major new opportunities for British business. But global competition is getting tougher and technological change is happening faster. We can’t afford to stand back as other countries invest and skill-up to win in high-value markets and sectors.”

A report from the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA), published on Monday, had revealed that the UK stood to lose £44bn unless further investment was made in high growth sectors.

At the budget, the Chancellor also announced £10bn of investment in the communications sector, including additional funding to deliver Lord Stephen Carter’s vision outlined in his Digital Britain interim report last January. Mr Darling committed the government to supporting increased broadband penetration to “almost every community,” which would ensure that “everyone can benefit from this communications revolution and create thousands more skilled jobs.”

Support of Digital Britain in today’s budget confirmed Carter’s plans to deliver a 2Mb broadband connection speed universally across the country by 2012. Speaking after the Chancellor issued the budget, Lord Stephen Carter released a statement, commenting: “The UK economy needs a digital infrastructure and it needs higher levels of connectivity and greater levels of participation...The Digital Britain commitments in today's Budget will establish a 2mbps Universal Service as a baseline for both Next Generation Networks and for the next generation delivery of public services."

Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson added: “We need to make sure that transformational technologies like broadband are genuinely available to virtually everyone. And we need government action to help drive that change and ensure UK firms have the capacity to compete for the economic opportunities it brings."

The budget also approved 'Digital Region', a £100 million project led by Yorkshire Forward, with the aim of rolling out next generation broadband across the South Yorkshire region, which the government believes will stimulate economic activity through high-speed connectivity.

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