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‘High risk’ science agency

The UK government has announced that it plans to launch a "high-risk" science agency to look for ground-breaking discoveries.

Run along the lines of similar agencies in the US the new agency, Aria, will receive funding of over £800m over the next four years and will operate with a "higher tolerance for failure than is normal", according to the government.

The Advanced Research & Invention Agency (Aria) is intended to fund "high-risk, high-reward" scientific research, but questions have been raised as to whether the funding is sufficient to meet that brief . Over the current financial year, the government has allocated over £10bn for its research programmes and bodies.

Looking beyond the government’s claims of creating a ‘global science superpower’, this announcement should be seen in a very positive light. Learning from 'failure' which has to be expected when dealing with riskier research can, ultimately, lead to great discoveries, inventions and innovations .

The idea for this agency came from Boris Johnson's former senior adviser Dominic Cummings, a supporter of "blue-sky" thinking by small groups of scientists.

Aria will be modelled on the US Advanced Research Projects Agency (Arpa), which supported research that led to the internet and GPS, and its successor Darpa. Recruitment for a chief executive and chair for the agency will begin in the coming weeks.

Matthew Fell, CBI UK chief policy director, said the UK had, "a unique opportunity to play to its strengths," with the new agency, to help create jobs, raise productivity and tackle the biggest challenges facing the country, and that key to Aria's success, “would be strong business engagement to make sure the brilliant ideas developed can make it through to market.”

It will be interesting to see the results that come out of this project.

Neil Tyler

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