The UK government has announced it is launching the Advanced Research & Invention Agency (ARIA) for funding “high-risk, high-reward” research.
The independent government-led agency will support research that could lead to ground-breaking discoveries, and will receive £800m in funding, as set out by the Chancellor Rishi Sunak in the March 2020 Budget.
It will focus on developing new technologies, discoveries, products and services to propel the UK to become a “global science superpower”, led by visionary researchers.
ARIA will follow a similar model to the US Advanced Research Projects Agency and according to the UK government, it will “look at how to avoid unnecessary bureaucracy and experimenting with different funding models”.
Mark Masterson, head of research & development at NTT DATA UK, commented:
“It is fantastic to see the government openly support and encourage innovation with the launch of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, which will only further cement the UK’s status as a leading tech nation.
“We have seen innovation play a huge role in adapting to the pandemic and enabling life to continue as normally as possible. From huge migrations to digital and remote working, to vaccine development measured in months not years, innovation has been crucial in our ability to progress as a society.
“It is crucial that we keep an eye on the future and the next technological and scientific innovations that will change the way we live. ARIA will enable us to do that, and it is vital that we can do so without fear of failure, as that is the only way for innovation to truly thrive and be successful.”
While many have welcomed the new agency, others have highlighted that the budget allocated is relatively small compared with other research bodies such as UK Research and Innovation.
Russ Shaw CBE, founder of Tech London Advocates & Global Tech Advocates, said:
“The UK’s continued commitment to innovation has always been encouraging to its thriving tech community. Undoubtedly, the launch of Aria will be another vote of confidence for our digital businesses – particularly deep tech firms built on years of R&D – and our ambitious scientists aspiring to develop cutting-edge solutions to some of the world’s most pressing issues.
“Despite Aria being a long-term government aspiration, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic will surely have reinforced the need for a vehicle allowing the technology and scientific community to pursue high-risk, ground-breaking innovations. Despite possessing the access to capital, talent and academic excellence that makes the UK a prominent innovation hub, we are often positioned as lacking the ‘fail fast’ culture embodied by Silicon Valley. Initiatives like Aria are a commitment to addressing this, although to compete with other major hubs from an R&D perspective, the initial investment indicates we are just getting started.
“At a time when the UK is looking to position itself as an innovation superpower, Aria could play a key role in defining Britain’s international image post-Brexit. To make it a success, the government must work closely with the tech community and ensure that our renowned tech businesses are engaged so that the most innovative ideas can flourish.”