AIRTO’s Chair Paul Howarth FREng and Executive Director Jane Gate held a roundtable discussion with Ynys Môn MP Virginia Crosbie following her speech in the House of Commons on 8 June highlighting the importance of the UK as a Science Superpower, to discuss the role of the UK’s Innovation, Research & Technology (IRT) sector in supporting the implementation of this important new Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA).
The Advanced Research and Invention Agency Bill (ARIA) is making its way through the House of Commons and the legislation is part of the government’s plan to invest £14.6 billion in R&D in 2021 to 2022, representing a vital contribution to the government’s target of achieving 2.4% of GDP for R&D by 2027 with the intention of bringing the UK into alignment with competitor nations. Virginia Crosbie MP sat on the parliamentary bill committee for ARIA.
AIRTO, the Association of Innovation, Research & Technology Organisations, on behalf of its members, has previously welcomed the proposal to establish ARIA and gave evidence to the recent , with the caveat that its inception does actually represent additional investment in research, development and innovation (as opposed to the redirection of existing funding). If established in this manner, it will be a powerful tool for helping the UK to implement the ambitions stated in the government’s new Plan for Growth and will further bolster the UK’s reputation as a ‘Science and Innovation Superpower’. As things stand, time is running out to reach that goal, and in the wake of Covid-19, we recognise that the government needs to take radical action to create attractive value propositions for industry to continue to invest in innovation. ARIA could be a successful mechanism for this.
AIRTO suggests that the mission of the new agency is to advance high-potential, high-impact technologies, that are too early for private sector investment, but have a clear end market in mind. Targets should be both individual products or essential underpinning technologies, and in both cases the output must be immediately exploitable once the ARPA project is completed. These technologies will be of national importance to government, society and the economy.
The UK’s ARIA should combine long-term funding with rapid decision making and effective involved, proactive monitoring. Its work should be ‘big picture’ led while utilising the UK’s existing, extensive infrastructure, and building comprehensive teams from all the different parts of the research, development, innovation, technology and industrial community – including both those that focus on cross-cutting technologies and those that support specific industrial sectors. These teams should comprise of the best organisations to undertake the work, irrespective of type, governance, ownership or location (see below regarding the specific question on location of the new agency). However, if there is no alternative, ARIA should have the ability to fund new facilities. AIRTO also considers that there needs to be strong government engagement with industry. Overall, AIRTO believes it is crucially important that the IRT sector is included in these discussions, as it provides an important component perspective of the UK innovation infrastructure, so we were delighted to be able to engage in positive dialogue with Virginia Crosbie MP. This sort of inclusive approach to engaging stakeholders will enable the agency to be shaped in a way that delivers cohesive programmes and projects with a clear, achievable, exploitable end-result. The IRT sector is a neutral convenor which interfaces with multiple parties: government, industry and academia. These institutions face into all sectors, and are a first port of call that can help engage existing industry sectors and supply chains and, where appropriate, assist entrepreneurial ventures with practical help on a whole range of their specialist needs. The sector helps both new and mature technology and innovation to reach into the marketplace, servicing the needs of its industrial client base.
AIRTO is the Association of Innovation, Research and Technology Organisations. It’s membership
comprises approximately sixty of the principal organisations operating in the UK’s Innovation,
Research and Technology (IRT) sector. The IRT sector has a combined turnover of £6.9Bn per annum,
employing over 57,000 scientific and technical staff (equivalent to the academic staffing of the
Russell Group of universities) and, for comparison, it is significantly larger than the network of
Fraunhofer Institutes in Germany both in size and its scope of activities. The sector contributes
£34Bn to UK GDP annually. AIRTO’s members work at the interface between academia and industry,
for both private and public sector clients.
Members include independent Research and Technology Organisations, Catapult Centres, Public
Sector Research Establishments, National Laboratories and some privately held innovation
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