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  • Writer's picturePhilip Day

Deep Dive into Advanced Research and Invention Agency

The Advanced Research and Invention Agency, known as 'ARIA' was announced by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on 2nd March 2021, after a couple of years of build-up. The Agency, rumoured to have a budget of about £50m in 2018 is now expected to wield an £800m budget, which is far in excess of the UK Space Agency. Legally, the agency is yet to be formed and is under review in Parliament now. In this article we'll take you through the Bill, and what we know so far about the Agency.

3 Key Functions that ARIA can directly, or indirectly perform:

1. conduct scientific research;

2. develop and exploit scientific knowledge;

3. collect, share, publish and advance scientific knowledge.

That is an incredibly broad remit which is supported by three main methods of providing support to these functions. Of course, the Agency is to provide advice and to mobilise their funding to enable projects, but they may also provide rights or other property by loan or transfer in support of these endeavours both here in the UK and abroad.

(Pictured: Harwell, Space Campus)

Whilst most UK Space Industry companies are actively engaged in Research & Development, which is a great tax-offset activity for investors, these activities can now have direct advice and tangible resources from ARIA.

(Pictured: SABRE Hybrid Rocket Engine by Reaction Engines)

The main take-aways for the purpose of the Agency and the criteria on which funding decisions are to be made, are high risk to failure and ambition for significant progress.

Used properly, and funded effectively, ARIA could clearly have a step-change impact on the ability for UK Companies to investigate avenues which were borderline commercially viable, to leap forward in developing edge technologies, testing them and bringing them to market ahead of global competitors.

Industry experts across the United Kingdom have responded positively to the announcement which was supported by the Prime Minister and a number of other cabinet Ministers.

Tony McBride who is the Director of Policy and Public Affairs at the Institute of Physics said:

“The IOP welcomes the plans announced by Government today for the new Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA).

“The establishment of ARIA will be an important step towards achieving the 2.4% R&D investment target and realising the associated benefits in terms of increased growth, productivity and prosperity. We welcome the freedom and autonomy that have been granted to ARIA, which will enable it to pursue truly disruptive, high-risk, high-reward research and maximise the impact of its funding. Whilst Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser (CEO of UK Research and Innovation), described the creation of ARIA as having "tremendous potential to enhance the UK".

(Pictured: Jaguar Land Rover Design HQ, Gaydon)

The potential sites for the new agency HQ are yet to be published, although it is expected that the building itself will be designed to embody the mission of the agency, making use of modern methods of construction. There is some pressure for this to be located outside of the 'Golden Triangle' in order to support a local economy elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

UK Space Industry partners have to maintain a sustained effort to be at the forefront of the discussion as the Agency is formed, as the UK Space Agency may play a less public role as they deal with the change of leadership from Graham Turnock (who is yet to comment publicly on ARIA) and his successor, who is yet to be recruited.

(Pictured: House of Commons)

If the bill is accepted in the existing form, it will be brought into law this year and will be known as the Advanced Research and Invention Agency Act 2021, and the Agency will be brought legally into existence.

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