POOLE has topped a regional league table when it comes to innovative businesses.

The strength of sectors such as finance, IT and software has helped the town outperform every other area in the south west for the percentage of its firms which qualify as innovative businesses.

The area of the recently-abolished Borough of Poole saw 160 successful claims for research and development tax relief in 2016-17 – accounting for 2.29 per cent of businesses.

Bournemouth was fifth among the region’s 15 local authority areas, with 1.4 per cent of businesses qualifying for the relief, while the former Dorset County Council area was ninth with 1.14 per cent.

Anthony Ford, president of Poole Chamber of Trade and Commerce, said: “It’s great to see so many businesses in Poole are innovators, forward thinking and may qualify for the tax relief benefits available for such entities.

“Poole is not only a town steeped in Maritime heritage – and continues to be so with the likes of Sunseeker and the success of the Poole Harbour Boat Show – but has a forward thinking and progressive attitude towards business.

“With the current regeneration and developments happening around the town, Poole will, and continues to be, a formidable place for businesses growth alongside it’s tourism roots."

Research and development tax relief specialist Jumpstart based its innovation league table on HMRC figures.

Jumpstart managing director Scott Henderson said: “It shows Poole leading the way in making successful R&D tax relief claims in the South West of England. A relatively high percentage of local companies in key sectors such as finance and IT/software are driving its strong regional placement.

“Significant numbers of local businesses have been successful in securing R&D tax relief for their investment in innovation to improve operational processes and enhance competitiveness. The generous reliefs offered by the UK government continue to support businesses in achieving these aims.

“The HMRC stats show nearly £1.2billion in R&D tax relief credits were secured by South West of England companies in the 2016-17 period, underlining the importance of the scheme in supporting businesses which aspire to be world class.”

The tax credits were introduced in 2000 by then-chancellor Gordon Brown, with the aim of incentivising businesses to invest innovation.

Adrian Trevett, economic development manager at the new Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) council, said: "We have partnered with many local organisations to promote this to businesses over the years so it seems to have worked well compared to the rest of the South West. 

"However, the percentage is still probably low compared to what could be claimed so I would urge any business that has not claimed please ask your finance manager or accountants to investigate."