West Yorkshire has been confirmed as the UK’s third investment zone in a bid to provide business support to the region’s life sciences and health tech companies.
The government, which made the announcement ahead of the Autumn Statement, said the plans could create more than 2,500 jobs over the next five years and “unlock” £220m in investment.
It will provide tax relief and other business incentives to the more than 600 life sciences companies based in the region. The West Yorkshire investment zone will be based around the universities and business clusters in the cities of Leeds, Bradford and Huddersfield.
Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, said: “It will mean thousands more jobs in the exciting industries of the future backed up by better infrastructure, and communities to be proud of.”
Alongside the confirmation of West Yorkshire as the latest location, Hunt said he is doubling the time period for investment zones in England from five to 10 years. The UK government said it is in talks with the Scottish and Welsh governments to provide the same investment zone extension there.
The government said it will work with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and other local authorities to deliver the life sciences investment zone.
West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin said: “We know that devolution is working for West Yorkshire and this new investment zone is further recognition of that from the government.”
Brabin added: “This investment is a massive vote of confidence in our top-tier universities and talented graduates and will help our mission to build a stronger, brighter region that works for all.”
Certain businesses located in the investment zones will be able to claim 100% Stamp Duty Land Tax relief, 100% business rates relief, and an “enhanced” 100% first-year capital allowance, among other support.
The government said “revamped” sites specialising in health tech will open up across West Yorkshire. West Yorkshire has established a strong life sciences and health tech sector. Leeds is home to NHS Digital, the IT and data division of the UK’s health service (which has since been merged into NHS England).
The Leeds health tech ecosystem is home to startups that specialise in medical devices, like Eventum Orthopaedics, which has created a knee replacement surgery device that lets orthopaedic surgeons record the strength of a person’s quadriceps muscle.
“Health tech is a sector that the region excels in and this extra investment will help local tech firms continue to make a massive difference to people’s lives globally,” Stuart Clarke MBE, director of Leeds Digital Festival, told UKTN.
“We’ve also seen a number of digital health firms move into the region from other parts of the UK and overseas and the investment zone will hopefully encourage more, leading to further innovation and jobs growth.”
Investment zones were first put forward by Liz Truss, the former prime minister, in the now-infamous “mini-budget” last year.
A scaled-down version of the plan was kept by Hunt with an almost £1bn in funding announced in the spring budget in March.
West Yorkshire is one of 12 investment zones across the UK. Hunt named South Yorkshire as the country’s first investment zone back in July, which will focus on advanced manufacturing.