There’s no formula for breakthroughs. You can’t get them from simply following the instructions on a box. Breakthroughs come from curiosity and determination. From failure and iteration. From moving with conviction toward a target that is barely visible through the fog of uncertainty.
Developing world-changing programmes may be more of an art than a science, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a black box. To that end, we’ve defined a few basic stages that will guide the creation of an ARIA programme. We’ll openly publish our progress at each stage, solicit feedback, and push version updates as our thinking evolves.
1. Posing Questions
Our Programme Directors joined ARIA because of a strong motivation to question the status quo and shape a programme that can change the world. So that’s our simple starting point for programme development – a set of questions that a PD is compelled to explore.
3. Formulating a Programme Hypothesis
Once a Programme Director has defined their opportunity space, they hone in on a core thesis that can underpin their programme. They then build an early sketch of what the programme could look like with early thoughts on the desired outcomes, who would be supported, how the research would be organised, etc. This hypothesis allows for feedback and engagement, both openly through comments and in more targeted discussions or workshops.
2. Bounding an Opportunity Space
Next, Programme Directors define an area of opportunity that is worth exploring – a space that is important-if-true (i.e. could lead to a significant new capability for society), under-explored relative to its potential impact, and presents a ripe opportunity for new talent, perspectives, or resources to change what’s possible.
4. Launching a Programme
Once they have integrated feedback, a Programme Director is ready to get final budget approval internally and launch their programme, generally through an open solicitation to find and fund those who can advance their vision.
Every Programme Director has a vision for what they think the future should look like, and a way in which they see the world. In many ways, their job is to build belief: both within themselves and with the wider communities around them. Those might be communities they are already a part of, or it might involve creating new communities. Our Programme Directors will engage with scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs across the UK and beyond, to secure support for their vision and then drive research towards the goals of their programme.
Pippy James, Director of Product
Our foundational mode is designed to advance visions whose scale and complexity requires coordinated investment across research disciplines and institutions.
Each of our Programme Directors has the freedom and flexibility to shape, fund, and direct a portfolio of projects that achieves an outcome greater than the sum of its parts.
This approach takes direct inspiration from the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) model.
But ARIA isn’t just a copy and paste of the ARPA model. We’re built to do things differently, and are currently building capacity for experimentation within ARIA. Our goal will be to test new modes of impact for effectiveness and scalability before we integrate them fully.
We will pilot several such modes this coming year, aligned to the opportunity spaces our Programme Directors are exploring.