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New research and invention agency could "drive post-pandemic recovery” 

22nd February 2021 about a 2 minute read
“Get ARIA right and we can unlock technological innovations that will drive post-pandemic recovery and help tackle global challenges like reaching net zero." Dr Tim Bradshaw, Chief Executive of the Russell Group

The government is to launch a new independent research body to fund “high-risk, high-reward” scientific research.

It is hoped the Advanced Research & Invention Agency (ARIA) will increase support for ground-breaking discoveries that could transform people’s lives.

The £800 million initiative is aimed at enabling inventors to turn their ideas into reality. The new agency will be independent of government and led by world-leading researchers.

ARIA will be based on models that have proved successful in other countries, for example the influential US Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). 

ARPA was instrumental in new developments including the internet and GPS. More recently, ARPA’s successor, DARPA, was a pre-pandemic funder of Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines and antibody therapies, leading to the production of vital COVID therapies.

Cutting-edge research

Commenting on the announcement, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Today’s set of challenges – whether disease outbreaks or climate change – need bold, ambitious and innovative solutions.

“This new agency will focus on identifying and funding the most cutting-edge research and technology at speed, stripping back unnecessary red tape and putting power in the hands of our innovators”.

Dr Tim Bradshaw, Chief Executive of the Russell Group, added:

“Get ARIA right and we can unlock technological innovations that will drive post-pandemic recovery and help tackle global challenges like reaching net zero. 

“COVID has shown us just how quickly UK researchers can react to rapid funding calls – removing unnecessary bureaucracy and giving ARIA the ability to act flexibly will help cutting-edge projects go forward at pace”.

Experiment with funding models

The agency 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. 

Legislation to create the new research agency will be introduced to Parliament as soon time allows. The aim is for it to be fully up and running by 2022.

A recruitment campaign will begin over the coming weeks to appoint an interim Chief Executive and Chair. 

More information on ARIA is available here