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A new UK research funding agency


The December 2019 Queen’s Speech set out the Government’s intention for:

a new approach to funding emerging fields of research and technology. It will provide long term funding to support visionary high-risk, high-pay off scientific, engineering, and technology ideas

The October 2019 Queen’s Speech briefing note explained that this would be “broadly modelled” on the US ARPA. The US Government’s ‘Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’ (DARPA), which evolved from ARPA, employs ‘programme managers’ on 3–5 year contracts to fund high-risk, high-reward research. Its budget in financial year 2019–20 was approximately £2.65bn.

The March 2020 Budget stated that the Government would “invest at least £800 million” in this “blue skies” funding agency, which would fund “high risk, high reward science”.

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee will inquire formally into the nature and purpose of this new UK research funding agency.

This will include:

  • What gaps in the current UK research and development system might be addressed by an ARPA style approach?
  • What are the implications of the new funding agency for existing funding bodies and their approach?
  • What should be the focus be of the new research funding agency and how should it be structured?
  • What funding should ARPA receive, and how should it distribute this funding to maximise effectiveness?
  • What can be learned from ARPA equivalents in other countries?
  • What benefits might be gained from basing UK ARPA outside of the ‘Golden Triangle’ (London, Oxford and Cambridge)?

The Committee would therefore welcome written submissions by Friday 31 July on the above points to inform the Government’s thinking behind the nature and purpose of ARPA and how it fits into the existing research and innovation ecosystem.

In light of the current circumstances, the evidence submission deadline for this inquiry is longer than usual and is subject to change.

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  • Address: Science and Technology Committee, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA