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 Head of Policy Neil leads techUK's domestic policy development. He regularly engages with UK and Devolved Government Ministers, senior civil servants and Members of the UK’s Parliaments with the aim of supporting government and industry to work together to make the UK the best place to start, scale and develop technology companies.
Neil joined techUK in 2019 to lead on techUK’s engagement in the UK-EU Brexit trade deal negotiations, as well as leading on economic policy.
He has a background in the UK Parliament and in social research. Neil holds a masters degree in Comparative Public Policy from the University of Edinburgh and an undergraduate degree in International Politics from City, University of London.
Sue leads techUK's Technology and Innovation work.
This includes work programmes on cloud, data protection, data analytics, AI, 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 women in UK tech by Computer Weekly and as a key influencer in driving forward the Big Data agenda in the UK Big Data 100. 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 Digital Technology Trade Association.
Julian leads techUK's 60 strong team in representing over 800 member companies, comprising global and national champions and more than 500 SMEs. He is a member of the UK Government and Industry Cyber Growth Partnership, the Digital Economy Council and the Department of International Trade’s Strategic Trade Advisory Group. He is also the Vice President for National Trade Associations, on the Executive Board of DIGITALEUROPE, Vice President representing Europe on the board of WITSA the Worldwide IT Association, and a member of the board of the Health innovation Network, the South London Academic Health Science Network.