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UK Budget 2017: games fund extended, R&D credits boosted and better maths education

The Chancellor of the Exchequer also confirmed plans to invest £500m in the Tech sector

The UK government has announced its budget for the next year, including some good news for the video games industry.

Perhaps the most obvious announcement to benefit games firs is a further £1 million to extend the UK Games Fund until 2020, aiding access to finance and business support for early stage video game developers.

It's not quite the £23.7 million that was proposed by the Bazalgette Review back in September, but it does at least extend the scheme beyond the four years originally planned when the fund launched in 2015, suggesting further support is not impossible.

Developers should also be able to benefit from the promise of £2.3bn in extra expenditure for R&D. Tax credits in this area will rise from 11% to 12% starting from January 1st, 2018.

Further details about support for the UK's creative and digital industries will be announced in the forthcoming Industrial Strategy White Paper, which will hopefully include more games-specific allocations of public funds.

There were a few announcements in the Education sector that should benefit the games industry, including plans to spend £84m upskilling 8,000 computer science teachers to ensure every secondary school has a fully qualified teacher at GCSE level. In addition to this, the Government will work with industries to set up a National Centre for Computing, which produce training materials and more.

This follows news that the majority of English schools did not offer GSCE computer science during the 2015-16 academic year.

Further incentives for maths education, a key skill when it comes to games programming and development, were also welcomed by the industry. Promises include £27m to expand the Teaching for Mastery maths programme, which will bring it into 3,000 additional schools, and an extra £600 per pupil for schools and colleges based on the number of kids studying Maths or Further Maths at A Level.

The Chancellor claimed that a new high-tech business is founded within the UK every hour, and wants to increase this to every half-hour.

To accomplish this, he has pledged investment of £500m into the tech sector, which will be partly used to develop artificial intelligence, 5G and full-fibre broadband. While this may not seem like it benefits games directly, developers' growing skill with AI should help see some of that money coming towards our industry, while 5G and faster broadband will enable better online gaming experiences.

He also reiterated plans to invest £21 million over the next four years to expand Tech City UK to become Tech Nation. The scheme will grow regional technology hubs, many of which are home to various games studios and start-ups. Prioritised cities include Cambridge, Bristol, Leeds, Sheffield, Edinburgh, Bath, Manchester, Newcastle, Reading, Birmingham, Glasgow, Belfast and Cardiff.

All of the above news was welcomed by both UK trade bodies, UKIE and TIGA.

"We are pleased to see that the government has announced a further £1 million to extend the UK Games Fund until 2020, alongside improvements to existing important schemes, such as R&D tax credits, and raising the investment limit of the EIS scheme," said UKIE CEO Jo Twist.

"We also welcome the focus on more investment in local clusters and economies, something we have called for consistently given the strength of the games sector across the UK. These measures show that the government is committed to small businesses around the UK that are innovation driven, such as the games sector."

TIGA CEO Richard Wilson added: "TIGA strongly supports the Government's plans to incentivise the study of maths - which is already the most popular A level subject - more computer science teachers and support for FE colleges to prepare for the introduction of T-Levels. The games industry, the creative sectors and the wider UK economy need a highly skilled, trained and educated workforce to compete successfully.

"The provision of a further £1 million to extend the UK Games Fund until 2020 is fantastic news and will help more start-ups and small studios access to finance and business. The expansion of  Tech City UK's reach and further investment in R&D and AI is also good news for the video games industry and other high technology sectors."

You can find more highlights from the budget here or, if you're so inclined, read the entire thing online.