Announcement of ARPA-style funding agency in the UK – KTN’s response

This week’s budget highlights the government‚Äôs aspiration for a step change in R&D investment.

It plans to increase investment in science, innovation and technology to £22bn by 2024-25 Рthe largest commitment for at least 40 years. Significantly, this takes public funding of R&D to 0.8% of GDP.

This includes an investment of at least £800m in a new blue-skies funding agency in the UK, modelled on ‘ARPA’ (Advanced Research Projects Agency) in the US. This agency will fund high-risk, high-reward science.

 

KTN welcomes this approach as a notable addition to the existing innovation infrastructure in the UK. In an uncertain world, a focus on innovation is imperative, especially to help solve some of our intractable social and environmental challenges.

Here are our recommendations for how a new innovation funding agency might work to greatest effect. ARPA should:

  • Be complementary to, not competitive with, UK Research and Innovation. Agencies such as Innovate UK and Research Councils, through KTN, have diverse connections to world-class talent and investment. Let‚Äôs use these capabilities to help projects that are receiving grant funding.
  • Fund projects that also test new business models, as well as scientific discovery. A focus on business model innovation will will be necessary to drive the adoption of new technologies.
  • Build on existing centres of expertise across the UK ‚Äì we have established clusters of scientific, technology and skills capacity that can help to grow regional and local prosperity.
  • Fund projects that bring talent from around the world to undertake research and development in the UK: innovation is global.
  • Fund projects that acknowledge and champion diversity of disciplines, thought and background to develop new solutions. Radical change comes from breaking down barriers to innovation.

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