UK to launch ‘high-risk, high-reward’ research agency, dubbed ARIA

by Jeremy

The UK government has announced plans to launch the Advanced Research & Invention Agency (ARIA), a new research body to identify and fund groundbreaking science and technology at speed.

With a model based on the US Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) and its successor DARPA, the new agency is supported by £800m in funding. It will be backing high-risk research that offers the chance of high rewards in terms of their transformational impact on society.

Legislation to create the new research body is set to be introduced to Parliament, and the aim is for the new agency to be fully operational by 2022. The search for ARIA’s interim chief executive and chair, who will set the agency’s vision, direction, and priorities, will start in the coming weeks.

“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.

Operating independently from the government, ARIA is expected to be led by prominent, world-leading scientists, who will be empowered to position the UK as a “global science superpower” while finding ways to support economic recovery through innovation and the creation of highly skilled jobs nationwide.

According to the government, the agency will look at how to avoid unnecessary bureaucracy and experiment with different funding models such as program and seed grants and prize incentives to achieve its goals of backing pioneering research.

“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,” Kwarteng said. ARIA will also be able to start and stop projects according to their success and 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.”

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