Looking beyond what exists today to the breakthroughs we’ll need tomorrow

ARIA empowers scientists to pursue breakthroughs at the edge of the possible.

We have a big mission, and getting there won’t be easy. That’s why we’re building a new kind of research agency that does things differently.

Created by an Act of Parliament, and sponsored by the Department for Science, Innovation, and Technology, ARIA will fund projects across the full spectrum of R&D disciplines, approaches, and institutions.

ARIA’s programmes and projects are directed by our Programme Directors, scientific and technical leaders with deep expertise and a focused, creative vision for how technology can enable a better future.

While Programme Directors are tasked with deeply exploring a topic and designing funding opportunities, they won’t get to breakthroughs alone. To maximise their chance at success, they’ll develop their thinking through direct calls for feedback, source projects through open solicitations, and have their programmes reviewed by experts against a clear set of evaluation criteria.

Our core approach:

1

We back people, then projects.

This starts with our Programme Directors: dynamic leaders with technical expertise and focused visions. They retain creative control as they define an opportunity space, set the direction of programmes, and decide how to best fund the R&D community to advance their vision.

2

We were created for bold, long-term impact.

ARIA was built to pursue scientific and technological breakthroughs that will take years to play out. We have the autonomy and flexibility to go after ideas that may seem far-fetched, but could unlock world-changing capabilities.

3

We activate the UK’s world-class research community to act as a force multiplier.

We will reach across disciplines, sectors and institutions to shape, fund and manage projects across the R&D ecosystem, from startups to universities, to break down silos and discover new pathways.

4

We are designed to be ambitious, nimble and accountable.

Our independence allows us to pursue bold outcomes, but that is only made possible through accountability. Our Board of Directors plays a critical role in scrutinising our strategy and ensuring good governance. As a public body created via the ARIA Act we are also accountable to Parliament.

5

We believe entrepreneurial drive must advance science as well as technology.

The journeys to the greatest breakthroughs – from AI to space travel to DNA sequencing – have always combined a seemingly unattainable vision with an embrace of experimentation and failure.

6

We take responsible stewardship seriously.

Pursuing potentially transformative technologies requires a highly responsible approach. We will engage broadly and seek open feedback to shape our research, and ensure that questions of ethics and governance are baked into our approach from the start.

Our approach to funding

Early-stage innovation isn’t simple, it can’t be perfectly engineered. We cannot guarantee that any one project or programme will lead to widespread impact. But we can do our best to maximise that chance, both by aligning the research we fund with viable paths to deployment and by minimising barriers to scale. This is baked into our programme design, and also guides our approach to funding.

Principles

 

  1. Our responsibility starts with the taxpayer. As a government funded agency, we must work to ensure the projects and programmes we fund have the greatest chance of bringing significant public benefit to the UK.
  2. We fund the best people and ideas to get the job done, whoever and wherever they are. We welcome proposals from individuals and institutions of all types.
  3. We were built to drive transformational, not incremental change. Anything in our funding approach that could inhibit the scale of impact from our research should be seen as an existential risk.
  4. The frontier of science and technology is global. To catalyse transformative technologies and industries for the UK, we need to be globally minded in our reach and ambition.
  5. We aim to catalyse, not compete. We will work to strengthen and support the system, rather than solve for ARIA alone.

In practice

 

  • We default to open competitions and solicitations, and base awards on rigorous criteria-based review from multiple experts.
  • We encourage anyone to apply for funding, whether you are a Nobel scientist at a university, a junior engineer at a startup, or a polymath in your garage.
  • We fund individuals and organisations in and outside of the UK, if their work can significantly boost the success of an ARIA programme or otherwise benefit the UK.
  • We generally do not require matching funds and aim to provide full cost recovery in order to maximise the speed and accessibility of our awards.
  • We are actively involved in the direction of funded projects, with high expectations on speed, adaptability, and safety.
  • We do not perform research internally that could be seen as competitive with prospective awardees.
  • We do not retain IP rights to the work we fund nor do we take equity in resulting spinouts. That said, to promote inventor-led science startups and maximise the incentives for downstream scaling and growth:
    • We do require that non-profit award recipients give preference to inventors in licensing.
    • We limit the percentage of equity that non-profit award recipients and their affiliates can retain in spinouts resulting from ARIA-funded research.
team member

History is made up of periods of steady progress, but there are moments when we make a sudden leap forward. Whether it’s transistors, personal computers, vaccines, or even wind power, that shift is typically instigated by a small group of people who are willing to think differently about what might be possible. It’s that entrepreneurial approach – the ability to create a vision and bring it to reality – that pushes us forward. That’s what we’re betting on at ARIA.

– Ilan Gur, CEO

An ARIA opportunity space starts with the vision of a Programme Director. But it’s only made real by activating the creativity and ambition of the wider R&D community.

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