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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Business briefing – 30 June 2020

Government unveils £200 million package to help innovative businesses bounce back
Innovative ideas and projects led by companies recovering from the impact of coronavirus will not be lost, thanks to a new £200 million fund launched this week.

The government’s Sustainable Innovation Fund (click here) will be open to companies across all parts of the UK who need urgent financial support to keep their cutting-edge projects and ideas alive.

Funding totalling almost £200 million could go towards developing new technologies focused on making homes and offices more energy efficient to cut bills, creating ground-breaking medical technologies to treat infections and diseases, or reducing the carbon footprint of public transport in our towns and cities.

In a move to support people across the country to establish more ‘climate-positive’ behaviours, businesses and start-ups could also make use of the fund to develop smart sustainability-focused projects – from apps encouraging people to cut down their food waste to sustainable biodegradable packaging.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “Our country is home to some of the world’s most cutting-edge businesses that turn ingenious ideas into new technologies every day. That’s why we’re backing our innovators and risk-takers with new investment so they can recover and grow out of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Today I am urging businesses in all parts of the UK to come forward and pitch their state-of-the-art ideas to us, so we can work together to power the UK’s economic recovery.”

More details on the funding are available here from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). Other funding opportunities currently available through UKRI include:

  • Developing the UK’s low carbon automotive capability: UK registered businesses can apply for a share of up to £30 million for UK-developed late stage R&D, to support growth in advanced low carbon propulsion capability in the automotive sector. Find out more and apply here.
  • EUREKA: healthy ageing: UK registered businesses can apply for a share of up to £2 million to develop digital health technologies in partnership with organisations from EUREKA countries. Find out more and apply here.

Boris Johnson promises £5bn ‘new deal’ to build homes and infrastructure
Boris Johnson has said now is the time to be “ambitious” about the UK’s future, as he set out a post-coronavirus recovery plan.

The PM vowed to “use this moment” to fix longstanding economic problems and promised a £5bn “new deal” to build homes and infrastructure.

Claiming he had been inspired by US president Franklin D Roosevelt, who led America out of the Great Depression with his New Deal in the 1930s, he said plans set out in the Tory election manifesto would be speeded up and “intensified,”; infrastructure projects in England will be “accelerated” and there would be investment in new academy schools, green buses and new broadband.

The announcement (available to view here) comes alongside a package of measures to support home building across England. These include:

  • A £12bn affordable homes programme that will support up to 180,000 new affordable homes for ownership and rent over the next eight years, confirmed today.
  • Included in the affordable homes programme will be a 1,500 unit pilot of ‘First Homes’: houses that will be sold to first time buyers at a 30% discount which will remain in perpetuity, keeping them affordable for generations of families to own.
  • The Home Builders Fund to help smaller developers access finance for new housing developments will receive additional £450m boost. This is expected to support delivery of around 7,200 new homes.

New regulations will give greater freedom for buildings and land in our town centres to change use without planning permission and create new homes from the regeneration of vacant and redundant buildings.

Funding initiatives

£80 million boost to cut emissions from homes and industry
Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng has announced nearly £80 million of government investment to help cut carbon emissions from homes and energy intensive businesses – find out more here.

The funding will be invested in a wide range of programmes, including pioneering heat networks and an innovative new programme to bring down the cost of retrofitting residential properties with the latest energy efficiency technologies.

The funds, which were announced on Monday, include:

  • £30 million towards the first phase of the Industrial Energy Transformation Fund (IETF), which supports energy intensive manufacturers, like car factories and steel plants, to cut their carbon footprint
  • £25 million for heat networks, which reduce carbon and cut heating bills for customers, including one which will harness geothermal water sitting in disused mines to heat 1,250 homes
  • £24 million for innovative projects to help develop energy efficient homes by installing green tech and insulation in houses

Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng said: “ We want to invest now to ensure we continue to propel the UK towards a stronger, greener future.This new £80 million investment will help to reduce emissions across our economy, which will save people money on energy bills and protect jobs in heavy industry.”

Revolutionising the way we fly: apply for business funding
Organisations can apply for a share of up to £30 million to develop ways to support safe operations of novel modes of air transportation – minimising the environmental footprint and improving connectivity.

Flying taxis, drones delivering medical supplies, small electric aircraft, vertical take-off and landing vehicles and autonomous aircraft are some of the innovations that could transform aviation and broader transportation in the future. More details are available here.

Government to protect UK research jobs with major support package
Two support packages will give greater job protection to thousands of researchers, scientists and technicians working at UK universities during coronavirus.

From this autumn, research-active universities across the UK that have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic will be able to access long term, low interest loans, supplemented by a small amount of government grants, covering up to 80% of their income losses caused by any actual decline in international students.

The package (click here to view) will be made available to fund research and high priority projects, such as medical research, in order to support universities to continue to be at the cutting edge of innovation.

Around £200 million in new government investment will be made immediately available to support researchers’ salaries and other costs such as laboratory equipment and fieldwork. This will allow universities to retain research talent and protect innovative, ground-breaking projects across the country. UK Research & Innovation will also redistribute up to a further £80 million of existing funding to support research and development (R&D) in universities.

More firms can now benefit from the Future Fund
More start-ups and innovative firms will be able to apply for investment from the government’s Future Fund from today (Tuesday 30 June).

Changes (available to view here) to the scheme’s eligibility criteria will mean that UK companies who have participated in highly selective accelerator programmes and were required, as part of that programme, to have parent companies outside of the UK will now be able to apply for investment.

£100 million rescue package for England’s zoos and aquariums
Zoos and aquariums in England are set to receive up to £100 million in additional support to help them continue to care for their animals through coronavirus pandemic. Click here for more information.

Additional updates and guidance

Government introduces legislation to relieve burden on businesses and support economic recovery
The government has introduced the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill in Parliament. The Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill received royal assent on 25 June and is now an Act.

Boost for renewable heat projects as government confirms tariff extension
Companies that applied to the government’s tariff guarantee scheme before June 29 will have an extra 14 months to get their low-carbon heat generators up and running. Click here for more information.

Webinars to support employers with ‘new furlough’
From July 1st 2020, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is changing and the government is running a series of webinars to help employers get ready for the new scheme. The webinars are called Extension to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and flexible furloughing. Choose a date and time here.