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article imageUK's new science agency aims to reward high-risk innovation Special

By Tim Sandle     Feb 24, 2021 in Science
The U.K. has created a new science agency, called the Advanced Research & Invention Agency. This agency will be led by scientists who will be given the freedom to identify and fund transformational science and technology at speed.
The British government has launched a new science agency called the Advanced Research and Invention Agency (or ARIA). The purpose is to fund so-termed ‘high risk’ innovation, according to the BBC. The British government, in setting out the aims of the agency, says: "the new agency will help to cement the UK’s position as a global science superpower, while shaping the country’s efforts to build back better through innovation." To achieve this, agency will be given £800 million ($1.1 billion) to help “the most inspiring inventors” over the next four years.
Looking into the launch for Digital Journal is Mark Smith, who is the partner for 'Innovation Incentives, Ayming UK and Ireland'.
Smith is broadly supportive of the innovation, noting: "The Government seems to be taking the right approach to this agency. It will be independent, run by the scientists and has a clear aim to be agile in allocating funding."
However, he points out that the structure of the agency is critical, stating: "Funding bodies tend to be bureaucratic and slow, meaning they are usually behind the times. They are run by civil servants who can be disconnected from the field they are financing and, therefore, might not have a full grasp of where the money would be best invested. It’s much better for this to be run by the experts, working closely with businesses to find out the best avenues to explore."
Smith is broadly optimistic about the proposed model, finding that "It limits a programme director’s tenure to 4-6 years to avoid the creation of fiefdoms and bring in fresh ideas. The Government should follow this lead to create a structure and culture suited to the ambitious goals. If run right and ARIA succeeds in being truly agile in funding ground-breaking projects, it could be very effective."
Smith sums up his overview by stressing the importance of the start-up model: "Innovation will be essential to the economic recovery of the UK. It’s good to see the Government recognise this and commit to additional spending in key areas such as research when fiscal tightening is being suggested in some quarters. It’s still a small number though, and I would the encourage the Government to make bolder bets in the upcoming Budget rather than throttling the recovery before it gets started."
The opposition Labour Party has raised concerns about a lack of specific detail with regards to the remit of the agency and has requested greater transparency.
More about ARIA, Science, Innovation
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