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ACCA urges gov to empower regional leaders to meet Levelling Up promises

It has called for the creation of new R&D-focussed business loans and funding streams, capitalising on the new Regional Investment Funds provided by the British Business Bank

The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA ) has called on the Government to empower regional leaders through devolved funding projects to grow innovation initiatives.

It said this was one of the principle recommendations outlined in the new Higher Education Commission report Empowering Innovation: The role of universities in boosting regional economies. The report puts forward this and other practical proposals preparing a workforce that is ready for the technologies and industries of tomorrow.

The report found the UK needs to create a more collaborative, joined up innovation system in order to produce greater R&D activity in all corners of the UK. Practical measures will be critical to drive up productivity and achieve ‘levelling up’, including:

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Creating new R&D-focussed business loans and funding streams, capitalising on the new Regional Investment Funds provided by the British Business Bank.
Expanding the successful knowledge exchange programmes – the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) and the Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTPs) – which help to promote business productivity growth.
Establishing new regional innovation support services and enhancing the existing R&D Tax Credit Scheme to foster SME and university innovation activity.

Claire Bennison, head of ACCA UK, said: “We welcome the report from the Higher Education Commission, which offers insight into how collaboration from universities, local businesses as well as cultural and voluntary sectors will accelerate the journey to economic recovery and increase the level of opportunity across the UK.

“Bringing local businesses particularly SMEs and higher education establishments together will aid the UK in meeting its ‘levelling up’ agenda and ensure that the workforce is skilled and ready for advancements in technology. However, it’s essential that the government recognises this. Only by empowering regional decision making along with ring fenced and targeted funding will the UK’s regional inequalities be addressed.”

She added: “This is a pivotal moment for the government to reshape the economy following the global pandemic and the current increase in cost of living.

“Putting the practical next steps into practice outlined by the Higher Education Commission, and boosting careers training and upskilling across the board in environmental, digital, ethical and technical professional disciplines, is critical to achieving the promises made by the government in the Levelling Up White Paper.”

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