BOURNEMOUTH has been named as one of the UK’s hotspots for innovation.

Businesses in the town spent at least £100million on research and development (R&D) in the past year, according to a study.

The research – based on applications for research and development tax breaks – put the town at number 17 among Britain’s top 20 towns and cities for innovation.

Tax consultancy Catax found the Bournemouth area had seen 310 applications for R&D tax relief in the past year, with the firms concerned spending £100m – equivalent to £253 per local person.

The top placed UK town was reading, where £385m was spent on R&D, equivalent to £2,359 per person.

Liz Willingham, president of Dorset Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: “It’s great to see us in the top 20 for R&D expenditure and I’m not surprised.

“We have a great mix of businesses in sectors from manufacturing and engineering, to tech and digital where innovation and creativity is at the core of their success.

“Dorset Chamber actively promotes R&D tax credits within its membership to encourage businesses to maximise the savings and opportunities they bring. I would like to see us jump further up the league tables as we experiment with new ways of working post Covid19.”

Sophie Parsons, project manager at the project design consultancy Aetha Design in Poole, said: "It's probably due to Bournemouth University and Arts University Bournemouth having good product design courses, hence ex-uni students returning to the area after years away to set up companies and work in R&D and design. Exactly what we have done and many of our peers who graduated 10-11 years ago."

The research put Southampton third from bottom for claiming R&D tax relief, with 115 claims adding up to a £20m spend – only £79 per person.

Manchester spent the most money overall -- £760m – but with a population of 2.8m, the expenditure worked out at £270 per person.

Mark Tighe, CEO of tax relief specialist Catax, said: “Reading is the UK’s leading light when it comes to innovation and investing in the R&D workforce.

“Thousands of companies will face financial difficulty in the coming months as the coronavirus crisis bites. It’s a tragedy that many of these companies will ultimately go bust without realisig they could have claimed significant sums under the R&D tax relief scheme.

“There needs to be more education among small businesses over what counts as R&D and how they can claim. A piece of software, a new innovative menu item in a restaurant or a simplified manufacturing process can all qualify.”