Morning, Tuesday, 20th July 2021

Book Online | Live Agenda | CPD certified | Sponsorship | Our Website | @WHEFEvents | Unsubscribe

Sarah Hodgetts, Deputy Director for Science, Research and Innovation, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Anne Sofield, Programme Director, Simpler and Better Funding, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)

Dr Alan Bernstein, President & CEO, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research
Dr Kieron Flanagan, University of Manchester; Maurice Frankel, Campaign for Freedom of Information; Professor Francis Livens, University of Manchester; Dr Kath Mackay, Alderley Park; Professor Jonathan Seckl, University of Edinburgh; Fariba Soetan, National Centre for Universities and Business; and Professor Chris Speed, University of Edinburgh

Chaired by:
Chi Onwurah MP, Shadow Minister for Science, Research & Digital

Richard Holden MP

[full chair and speaker details]

*Please share this email with interested colleagues*

Note: fees apply for most delegates, but concessionary and complimentary places are available [subject to terms and conditions – see below].

I am writing to remind you of your invitation to attend the above conference, taking place on the morning of Tuesday, 20th July 2021.

This conference follows the recent announcement of the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency (ARIA) in the UK.

Drawing on the DARPA in the United States, it will aim to streamline research and development and support high-risk innovation.

With the Advanced Research and Invention Agency Bill currently being debated in Parliament, the conference will be an opportunity to discuss key issues around the creation of the new agency.

We are pleased to be able to include a keynote session on progress with Sarah Hodgetts, Deputy Director for Science, Research and Innovation, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy; as well ask keynote contributions from Anne Sofield, Programme Director, Simpler and Better Funding, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI); and Dr Alan Bernstein, President & CEO, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research

The conference will also be an opportunity to discuss the wider landscape for research and development in the UK following the publication of the Government’s R&D Roadmap, and how this dovetails with recent developments in the UK’s ambitions to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The agenda will also bring out latest thinking on:

  • key focus areas for research
  • allocating research funding under ARIA, oversight and providing value for money, and freedom of information and public scrutiny
  • developing the institutional research culture in ARIA and supporting high ambition
  • ARIA’s role in the wider R&D system

The conference will be an opportunity for stakeholders to consider the issues alongside key policy officials who are due to attend from BEIS; the Government Office for Science; HMRC; HM Treasury; the ICO; the IPO; and the Welsh Government.

[Book Online]

The agenda: [taking place online – further details]

Draft subject to change

9.00Chair’s opening remarks

Chi Onwurah MP, Shadow Minister for Science, Research & Digital

9.05Progress so far with developing ARIA and the outlook for its launch

Sarah Hodgetts, Deputy Director for Science, Research and Innovation, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Questions and comments from the floor

9.30Priorities for reducing bureaucracy in applications for research and innovation funding

Anne Sofield, Programme Director, Simpler and Better Funding, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)

9.40The funding model – speeding up bidding for research funding, freedom of information and oversight, public engagement, and providing value for money

Maurice Frankel, Director, Campaign for Freedom of Information

Dr Kath Mackay, Managing Director, Alderley Park

Professor Jonathan Seckl, Senior Vice-Principal, Planning, Resources and Research Policy, University of Edinburgh

9.55Questions and comments from the floor
10.30Developing an institutional culture that supports blue skies research – cutting excess administration, embracing the possibility of failure, deepening collaborative practices, and harnessing open science

Professor Chris Speed, Chair, Design Informatics, University of Edinburgh

Senior representative, research foundation


Questions and comments from the floor

11.00Chair’s closing remarks

Chi Onwurah MP, Shadow Minister for Science, Research & Digital

11.15Chair’s opening remarks

Richard Holden MP

11.20Positioning ARIA in the broader R&D system – forging connections with established institutions and industry, sharing knowledge and expertise, and implications for the functioning of the system as a whole

Dr Kieron Flanagan, Senior Lecturer in Science and Technology Policy, University of Manchester

Fariba Soetan, Policy Lead (Research & Innovation), National Centre for Universities and Business

Senior representative, think tank

Questions and comments from the floor

Focus areas for research in high-risk innovation and how the benefits should be spread
11.50Supporting the net-zero transition and tackling climate change

Professor Francis Livens, Academic Director, School of Chemistry, University of Manchester

12.00ARIA’s potential contribution to UK defence preparedness

Senior representative, policy

12.10Questions and comments from the floor
12.30Learning from international practice in supporting risk-taking in research

Dr Alan Bernstein, President & CEO, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research

Questions and comments from the floor

12.55Chair’s and Westminster Higher Education Forum closing remarks

Richard Holden MP

Sean Cudmore, Deputy Editor, Westminster Higher Education Forum

[Book Online]

Relevant developments: [back to the agenda]

  • Advanced Research and Invention Agency: policy statement – the BEIS announcing ARIA:
    • based on the US DARPA and backed by £800m in funding, designed to accelerate high-risk, high-reward and potentially transformative research
    • within a framework of flexibility and reduced bureaucracy, as well as an expected exemption from freedom of information requests
  • debate over Freedom of Information exemption – calls from current and former parliamentarians and campaign groups for government to make the Agency subject to the Freedom of Information Act, to guard public accountability of the use of taxpayer money for high-risk research
  • MOD Science and Technology Strategy 2020 – focusing on funding emerging generation-after-next technologies, addressing the five capability challenges, and supporting the Future Force concept
  • Reducing red tape for UK researchers – the independent review commissioned by the Government with UKRI into the administrative demands of research in the UK, led by Professor Adam Tickell
    • aiming to propose practical solutions for reducing bureaucracy and streamlining research, expected to conclude in early 2022
  • Spending Review 2020 – including the announcement of nearly £15bn of investment in R&D through 2021-22:
    • aimed at allowing researchers to drive innovation and technological change while supporting collaboration with global partners
    • including a £350m allocation for UKRI and £6.6bn for defence research
  • EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement – setting out the UK’s continued participation in Horizon Europe and other European research programmes
  • Future Fund: Breakthrough – the £375m scheme, announced in the Budget
    • designed to encourage private investors to co-invest in UK based R&D and innovation firms
    • with the aim of providing the capital necessary to accelerate the development of breakthrough technologies
  • Global Britain in a Competitive Age – the Integrated Review recently published by the Cabinet Office:
    • outlining the governmental vision for UK’s international policy and national interests in the international landscape
    • aims to continue to strengthen national security and resilience, utilising scientific expertise for gaining a strategic advantage
  • UK Research and Development Roadmap – outlining the Government’s long-term plans for the UK’s R&D output, including:
    • the commitment to supporting transformative research through ‘moonshot’ ambitions
    • providing long-term rewards
    • a commitment for public investment in R&D to be increased to £22bn by 2024-25
  • the Sixth Carbon Budget – following recommendations from the independent Climate Change Committee, with:
    • a new target for cutting carbon emissions by 78% by 2035 is to be set in law, including shipping emissions and international aviation for the first time
    • commitments for the UK to reach the fastest fall in carbon emissions of any major economy between 1990-2035
  • Hancock: transforming the UK into a life sciences superpower – the recent DHSC announcement of £37m of investment in genomics projects and initiatives to use health data for life science research, with aims to make the UK the world’s most advanced clinical research environment

[Book Online]


Key areas for discussion: [back to the agenda]

Setting up and launching ARIA:

o   current outlook – looking at challenges regarding the launch and practicalities of creating ARIA, as well as its initial priorities and a breakdown of current progress

o   keynote contribution – from Sarah Hodgetts, Deputy Director for Science, Research and Innovation, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy


The funding model:

  • bidding – assessing strategic and tactical options for reducing the complexity of funding processes, and streamlining the delivery of funding to research projects
  • freedom of information – views on the proposal for ARIA to be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, including:
    • what it would mean for capacity to streamline research
    • issues for transparency, scrutiny and accountability in spending and other areas
    • possible impact on public trust in science funding, policy processes and those involved in decision-making
  • value for money – expectations for returns from high-risk research, and the challenges for securing, managing and measuring value for money


Streamlining research in ARIA:

  • flexibility – discussion around practical strategies for reducing bureaucracy within ARIA, looking at minimising duplication and layers of review, and the time between application and approval
  • keynote contribution – from Anne Sofield, Programme Director, Simpler and Better Funding, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) on reducing bureaucracy in applications for funding
  • institutional research culture:
    • supporting risk-taking and high ambition, and allowing for the possibility of failure in research endeavours, to enable high-risk innovation to thrive
    • arriving at an optimum balance that can take account of possible safeguarding issues
  • open science and research – assessing:
    • the possible contribution to efficient streamlining of research
    • ways of improving knowledge exchange and facilitating research collaboration domestically, as well as harnessing international research insights


ARIA’s role in the wider R&D system:

  • collaboration:
    • identifying primary areas of opportunity for collaboration and cooperation with established research bodies and funders
    • mechanisms for building trust and learning from best practice
    • how to minimise overlap and duplication, and effectively mark areas of responsibility
  • wider engagement – how ARIA can best interact and liaise with businesses, research charities, local and devolved administrations, and other stakeholders in high-reward innovation ventures
  • talking barriers – approaches to resolving issues relating to research bodies’ varying strategic priorities and timescales, intellectual property issues, and commercial agreements and sensitivities


Key research areas – assessing those areas which are most critical for long-term, high-risk investment, and with the potential for the largest payoffs from research breakthroughs, including:

  • climate change:
    • the potential impact of high-risk research on advanced energy generation, including nuclear power, as well as smart distribution and energy management systems
    • the contribution of advanced high-risk research projects to achieving net-zero ambitions
    • how best to utilise ARIA to support the recently intensified goals for cutting emissions, announced in the Sixth Carbon Budget
  • healthcare system capacity – the potential for ARIA to increase flexibility and responsiveness to future pandemics and health crises through:
    • improved understandings of the spread of rare and infectious diseases
    • streamlined funding of vaccines
    • advanced health care research and population health management
  • defence:
    • the relationship between ARIA and defence innovation, with the Agency being based on the defence-focused ARPA in the United States
    • opportunities for cross-disciplinary research to contribute to defence technology, as well as dovetailing with the Global Britain agenda


Drawing on international practice:

  • keynote contribution – from Dr Alan Bernstein, President & CEO, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research
  • implementation – lessons learned from international ARIA equivalents for implementing blue skies research agencies
  • efficiency – best practice in the streamlining of funding and co-operation with existing national research agencies
  • international collaboration – the potential of ARIA to co-operate in high-risk ventures with international partners, and deepen the UK’s standing in the international research landscape, especially in research areas of global concern such as climate change
  • freedom of information – international practice in oversight, governance, transparency and public scrutiny for similar agencies

[Book Online]

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. [About Us]

There’s an outline of the government departments, regulators and other interested parties who we expect to take part here.

I do hope that you will be able to join us for what promises to be a most useful morning, and look forward to hearing from you soon.