UK Government announces plans for a new Advanced Research & Invention Agency (ARIA)
The UK Government has announced the intention to launch a new agency responsible for funding “high-risk, high-reward” scientific research, with an initial budget of £800m. We have just over 1,500 words of the press release to glean what this new agency will do. It seems the crux of it all is a desire to create a flexible and speedy machinery that has a high tolerance for failure and that sits outside Government – with freedoms, low bureaucracy, and an approach that experiments with alternative funding models.
When will it happen?
According to the press release, the legislation to create ARIA will be introduced to Parliament as soon as possible, with the aim for the new agency to be fully operational by 2022.
Is it even necessary?
We haven’t seen any details yet with a rationale for the creation of a new body. UKRI, currently responsible for Research & Innovation funding in the UK has plenty of scope to offer what ARIA is supposed to do. There was even a reorganisation of the research councils in recent years with a kind of merger under the UKRI umbrella to basically offer a more joined-up and dynamic approach to R&I.
How will it be implemented?
Details are slim with a lack of clarity. It seems unclear if the organisation will conduct its own research and attract scientist or if this will purely be another funding agency for researchers in existing organisations. The way the press release is worded, the latter seems to be the more likely answer.
Our final thoughts: we welcome any announcement that supports research and innovation, but we need clarity on how the agency will spend £800 million of tax payers money, and we need to ensure that a proper impact evaluation is carried out by the UK Government.