The Advanced Research & Invention Agency (ARIA) will be led by scientists who will have the freedom to identify and fund transformational science and technology at speed.
The UK’s next generation of pioneering inventors will be backed by a new independent scientific research agency, the Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has announced today (Friday 19 February), as part of government plans to cement the UK’s position as a global science superpower.
The new agency, the Advanced Research & Invention Agency (ARIA), will be tasked with funding high-risk research that offers the chance of high rewards, supporting ground-breaking discoveries that could transform people’s lives for the better.
The UK has a long and proud history of inventing that dates back centuries – from Ada Lovelace and Alan Turing who pioneered early predecessors of the computer, Thomas Newcomen and James Watt who transformed travel by creating steam engines, William Grove who created fuel cells and Frank Partridge who helped save millions of lives by developing the first portable defibrillator.
The creation of ARIA will continue this tradition, backed by £800 million, to fund the most inspiring inventors to turn their transformational ideas into new technologies, discoveries, products and services – helping to maintain the UK’s position as a global science superpower.
The new agency will be independent of government and led by some of the world’s most visionary researchers who will be empowered to use their knowledge and expertise to identify and back the most ambitious, cutting-edge areas of research and technology – helping to create highly skilled jobs across the country. It will be able to do so with flexibility and speed by looking at how to avoid unnecessary bureaucracy and experimenting with different funding models.
ARIA will be based on models that have proved successful in other countries, in particular the influential US Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) model. This was instrumental in creating transformational technologies such as the internet and GPS, changing the way people live and work, while increasing productivity and growth. More recently, ARPA’s successor, DARPA, was a vital pre-pandemic funder of mRNA vaccines and antibody therapies, leading to critical COVID therapies.
“From the steam engine to the latest artificial intelligence technologies, the UK is steeped in scientific discovery. Today’s set of challenges – whether disease outbreaks or climate change – need bold, ambitious and innovative solutions.” Said Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng
Central to the agency will be its ability to deliver funding to the UK’s most pioneering researchers flexibly and at speed, in a way that best supports their work and avoids unnecessary bureaucracy. It will experiment with funding models including program grants, seed grants, and prize incentives, and will have the capability to start and stop projects according to their success, redirecting funding where necessary. It will have a much higher tolerance for failure than is normal, recognizing that in research the freedom to fail is often also the freedom to succeed.
A recruitment campaign will begin over the coming weeks to identify a world class interim Chief Executive and Chair to shape the vision, direction and research priorities for the agency.
ARIA will be backed by £800 million of government funding over the course of this Parliament, as set out by the Chancellor Rishi Sunak in the March 2020 Budget.