The problem Dominic Cummings’s ARPA won’t solve

The UK might be the most inventive country in the world. Think of all the technologies which only came about thanks to British research: the world’s first commercial jet, computers based on Charles Babbage and Alan Turing’s ideas, lithium-ion batteries which stemmed from the research of John Goodenough at Oxford. And now think of the countries that currently dominate these technologies. Britain doesn’t come to mind. Our inability to turn inventions into domestic industries is almost a disease. Which is where the government’s new plan for an Advanced Research & Invention Agency (ARIA) comes in. ARIA aims to ‘fund the most inspiring inventors to turn their transformational ideas into new

How Boris’s research agency can thrive

What is the recipe for outstanding innovation? According to Kwasi Kwarteng, the new Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, we should learn it from America. When he announced last week the launch of Britain’s new Advanced Research and Inventions Agency (ARIA), he reiterated that the £800m organisation would be based upon DARPA, America’s high-risk, high-reward defence research agency. This is no surprise. Since the 1950s, DARPA has racked up an extraordinary series of breakthroughs, including the internet, GPS, drones and stealth technology. Yet when it comes to recapturing what Kwarteng calls ‘the spirit of Britain’s long and proud history of inventing’, he should look at Britain’s history

Is this Dominic Cummings’ biggest legacy?

The government’s decision to set up a new research funding agency, to be known as the Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA), marks an important break in UK science and innovation policy – potentially more important than any recent government initiative in this field. The aim, as the Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng explained last week, is to fund high-risk, high-reward research, ‘supporting ground-breaking discoveries that could transform people’s lives for the better.’ As part of this mission, the chief executive of ARIA will be free to choose which areas to research and which projects to fund without direction from ministers. It is this independence from political and bureaucratic control which