City’s £100m ‘vote of confidence’

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A £100M investment in research and development by a household name is a “huge vote of confidence” in Hull, Chancellor George Osborne said yesterday.

Household products giant Reckitt Benckiser, founded in the city in 1848, is making the investment, the biggest ever in R&D in its history, safeguarding 1,200 jobs.

Hull beat off rival RB sites including in India, Singapore, China and the US, to become the global technical innovation hub for products like Nurofen and Strepsils.

The Chancellor, who visited the company yesterday, just as staff were being briefed about the development, hailed the firm, as “a great British success story”.

The project, which received £6m from the Regional Growth Fund, will see a new centre of scientific excellence, equipped with state-of-the-art laboratories and offices built at the Dansom Lane site

Mr Osborne said: “It is a huge vote of confidence in Hull – it is exactly what we want to see more of as part of this Northern powerhouse. We want to make sure Hull is not left out.”

Chief executive Rakesh Kapoor said the move was a “statement of intent to change the game” in consumer health and should attract talent both locally from the University of Hull, and globally.

The company aims to come up with new variations and delivery methods for everyday products like Nurofen.

Mr Kapoor cited the painkiller Nuromel – a combination of ibuprofen, which was discovered 40 years ago and paracetomol, discovered 100 years ago – as an example of what they are seeking to do, rather than hunt for “breakthrough” new medications.

Asked why Hull was chosen, he added: “We have had a 200-year history in Hull. This is not a completely new place to us. Hull and the UK has been so much part of our history and success.

“We have had brands like Nurofen, Strepsils and Lemsip being worked on with great innovations from Hull.

“We have had history in Hull, a history of success. We decided on Hull because we feel that Hull not only has the technical history, the talent, also we believe we can bring better infrastructure, better technical capabilities for people to do even better.”

Mr Osborne said the development promised more long-term jobs, as well as those during construction and should provide a “magnet” for other smaller businesses looking to relocate.

The latest analysis by the thinktank IPPR North shows the Government is planning to spend £5,035 per person on future infrastructure projects in London compared to just £547 per person in Yorkshire – little more than five per cent of the total.

Asked whether the North was getting too small a slice of the cake, Mr Osborne defended the coalition’s record, claiming to have “turned round the economy in the North East”, creating 150,000 jobs in Yorkshire and the Humber.

He said: “Now we have global companies who can choose to invest in the world – not just RB, there is the huge investment by Siemens. We want to make sure it is the beginning of the story, not the end.”

Mark Lawson, R&D site director, called the investment “fantastic” and said staff “would be blown away”.

Products including Nurofen for children, Gaviscon and Dettol are all made in Hull, with the city manufacturing the world supply of Lemsip. Brands originally developed in Hull and Nottingham include Dettol, Gaviscon and Optrex.

Construction is due to begin early next year, with the facility due to open in 2018.