UK Government announces the creation of ARIA, the High Risk, High Reward Research Agency
The Government has launched the Advanced Research & Invention Agency (ARIA). ARIA will be headed by leading scientists and innovators with the remit of engaging in high risk and high reward transformational research, adding a new capability to the UK’s innovation architecture.
Backed by an £800 million investment from the UK Government the new agency will be independent of Government and led by some of the world’s most visionary researchers empowered to use their knowledge and expertise to identify and back ambitious, research and technology challenges.
ARIA will be based on international examples such as the US Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) model. ARPA was instrumental in the development of transformational technologies such as the internet and GPS. More recently, ARPA’s successor, DARPA, was a vital pre-pandemic funder of mRNA vaccines and antibody therapies.
The Government has set out the policy intent and further details on ARIA's proposed structure here.
The organisation will exclusively focus on projects with the potential to produce transformative technological change, or a paradigm-shift in an area of science. The choice of research will be flexible with decsions about research taken by the leadership of ARIA rather than by Ministers.
ARIA will soon begin recruiting for a CEO, who will have wide ranging responsibilities for establihsing the structure of the organisation. However the Government envisages ARIA will operate on via a Programme Manager led funding model.
Programme Managers will be are expected to apply to work for ARIA for a 3–5-year tenure leading a single multi-million-pound research programme. Within their overarching programme, Programme Managers will distribute funding across a range of projects. Individual projects might vary in size, length, scientific discipline, and each may be conducted by different institutions in collaboration with others.
Programme Managers will be given significant flexibility to make partnerships with academic institutions, businesses and will be able to make procurement decisions with exemption from public procurement regulations. This will support ARIA to undertake the high risk, high reward research envisaged and be able to fund science in new and innovative ways beyond those permitted by UKRI’s governance arrangements, preventing overalapp between the two organisations.
ARIA presents an extraordinary opportunity for the UK to lead in transformational research. techUK has long been supportive of the concept, urging the Government to prioritise people, size and culture in order to ensure that the agency is driven by the right minds, is agile and able to accept risks.
ARIA must also be built to command broad support around its objectives. As an agency which must tolerate failure in order to achieve success, ARIA must ensure that there is buy in to the agencies aims so as to prevent risk from being managed out over time. The examples of ARPA and DARPA have shown that this kind of high risk, high reward research pays off significantly in the longer term with huge potential benefits for the UK’s scientific and technology capabilities.
techUK CEO Julian David said:
“techUK welcomes the creation of ARIA. This is an exciting announcement signalling a systemic shift in the way scientific research and technology development is conducted in the U.K. The success of this high risk, high reward body could redefine entire industries, find answers to global challenges, and act as a beacon to attract global tech innovators.
As ARIA moves from concept to reality techUK urges government to work closely with industry to get this crucial next step right. Particularly in three key areas; people, size and culture.
ARIA must have steady access to the best and brightest minds but also skilled project managers if this new approach is to work. As a body it should remain small, agile and focused as well as being given the room to take risks and build a culture based on a higher tolerance of failure. Ensuring ARIA remains separate from existing research bodies is therefore vital.”
As Associate Director for Policy Neil leads on techUK's public policy work in the UK. In this role he regularly engages with UK and Devolved Government Ministers, senior civil servants and members of the UK’s Parliaments aiming to make the UK the best place to start, scale and develop a tech business.
Neil joined techUK in 2019 to lead on techUK’s input into the UK-EU Brexit trade deal negotiations and economic policy. Alongside his role leading techUK's public policy work Neil also acts as a spokesperson for techUK often appearing in the media and providing evidence to a range of Parliamentary committees.
In 2023 Neil was listed by the Politico newspaper as one of the '20 people who matter in UK tech' and has regularly been cited as a key industry figure shaping UK tech policy.
Sue leads techUK's Technology and Innovation work.
This includes work programmes on cloud, data protection, data analytics, AI, digital ethics, Digital Identity and Internet of Things as well as emerging and transformative technologies and innovation policy. She has been recognised as one of the most influential people in UK tech by Computer Weekly's UKtech50 Longlist and in 2021 was inducted into the Computer Weekly Most Influential Women in UK Tech Hall of Fame. A key influencer in driving forward the data agenda in the UK Sue is co-chair of the UK government's National Data Strategy Forum. As well as being recognised in the UK's Big Data 100 and the Global Top 100 Data Visionaries for 2020 Sue has also been shortlisted for the Milton Keynes Women Leaders Awards and was a judge for the Loebner Prize in AI. In addition to being a regular industry speaker on issues including AI ethics, data protection and cyber security, Sue was recently a judge for the UK Tech 50 and is a regular judge of the annual UK Cloud Awards.
Prior to joining techUK in January 2015 Sue was responsible for Symantec's Government Relations in the UK and Ireland. She has spoken at events including the UK-China Internet Forum in Beijing, UN IGF and European RSA on issues ranging from data usage and privacy, cloud computing and online child safety. Before joining Symantec, Sue was senior policy advisor at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). Sue has an BA degree on History and American Studies from Leeds University and a Masters Degree on International Relations and Diplomacy from the University of Birmingham. Sue is a keen sportswoman and in 2016 achieved a lifelong ambition to swim the English Channel.
Julian David is the CEO of techUK, the leading technology trade association that aims to realise the positive outcomes that digital technology can achieve for people, society, the economy and the planet.
Julian led the transformation of techUK from its predecessor Intellect in 2014, putting an increased focus on the growth and jobs the technology industry offers in a global economy. He has since led its impressive expansion driving forward the tech agenda in key areas such as skills, innovation, business success and public sector transformation. He leads techUK’s 90-strong team representing a thousand British based tech companies, comprising global and national champions and 600 SMEs. In 2020, techUK joined forces with TechSkills, the employer-led organisation that aims to improve the flow of talent into the digital workforce and open up access for all to high value tech jobs.
Julian represents techUK on a number of external bodies including the Digital Economy Council, the National Cyber Security Advisory Council and the Department of Business and Trade’s Strategic Trade Advisory Group. He is member of the NTA Advisory Board of DIGITALEUROPE and is a member of the Board of the Health Innovation Network the South London Academic Health Science Network.
Julian has over thirty years of experience in the technology industry. Prior to joining techUK, he had a series of leadership roles at IBM including Vice President for Small and Medium Business and Public Sector. After leaving IBM he worked as a consultant helping tech SMEs establish successful operations in the U.K. His personal interests include Football (West Ham, Balham FC and Real Madrid) and Art.