The UK government has announced its intention to form a new research agency for high risk, high reward science and technology. The Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA) will empower leading scientists to identify and fund potentially groundbreaking research, in an attempt to establish the UK as a global scientific leader.
A date has not been set for the launch of the agency but it is hoped it will be fully operational by 2022. The government is currently recruiting for a CEO and chair.
WHY IT MATTERS
ARIA will add on to the UK’s existing Research and Innovation body, UKRI. It will be influenced by similar organisations that have already proved successful, such as ARPA and DARPA in the US, which were crucial to the foundation of the internet, GPS and the development of the mRNA vaccine.
ARIA will be dedicated to seeking out and fostering radical innovation at speed through funding, business engagement and the simplification of R&D bureaucratic processes. It will experiment with different funding models, have a higher tolerance for project failure and will continually assess project funding options depending on their success.
It will be supported by £800 million set aside by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in the March 2020 Budget.
THE LARGER PICTURE
In July last year, the UK set out its R&D Roadmap which promised “to strengthen our global position in research, unleash a new wave of innovation, enhance our national security and revitalise our international ties”. This included a commitment to foster R&D in lower-uptake areas and remove barriers to innovation.
In November, the Spending Review pledged to invest £14.6 billion on R&D in 2021 and 2022, supporting the government’s ambition of spending 2.4% of its GDP on R&D by 2027.
ON THE RECORD
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng commented on the benefit of launching ARIA: “Led independently by our most exceptional scientists, this new agency will focus on identifying and funding the most cutting-edge research and technology at speed. By stripping back unnecessary red tape and putting power in the hands of our innovators, the agency will be given the freedom to drive forward the technologies of tomorrow, as we continue to build back better through innovation.”
Science and Innovation Minister Amanda Solloway added: “ARIA will unleash our most inspirational scientists and inventors, empowering them with the freedom to drive forward their scientific vision and explore game-changing new ideas at a speed like never before. This will help to create new inventions, technologies and industries that will truly cement the UK’s status as a global science superpower.”
Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, CEO UKRI, said: “ARIA has tremendous potential to enhance the UK and global research and innovation system. The agency will have the freedom to experiment with pioneering new funding models, extending the reach of the current system to support people and ideas in new and different ways. Working closely together, UK Research and Innovation and ARIA will catalyse an even more diverse, dynamic and creative funding system that will ensure transformative ideas, whoever has them, can change people’s lives for the better.”