- The UK plans to spend £800 million ($1 billion) creating its own moonshot agency to fund cutting-edge research that has a high chance of failure.
- The idea is to create a UK “blue skies” funding agency that mimics the US Advanced Research Projects Agency, a government agency which fuelled the invention of the internet.
- UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the funding during his first Budget, among other measures targeted at boosting the country’s investment in tech.
- A UK version of ARPA is the brainchild of Dominic Cummings, the influential top advisor to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The UK plans to spend £800 million ($1 billion) on its own moonshot agency to fund cutting-edge technology and research.
UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the funding in his first Budget on Wednesday, stating that the goal was to create a “blue skies funding agency” that could fund crazy ideas that might lead to major breakthroughs.
Sunak described the agency as a UK version of the US Advanced Research Projects Agency, or ARPA, a government agency which fuelled the invention of the internet and was the foundation of Silicon Valley.
Sunak did not give details about the new agency but, per the New Scientist, the concept of an ARPA-like agency is the brainchild of Dominic Cummings, the UK prime minister’s most influential advisor.
In December, documents obtained by the New Scientist showed that the goal for the agency was to fund high-risk research where the likelihood of failure might be higher than commercial backers would be comfortable with.
According to a planning document from September, a UK ARPA would “give academics longer term funding to tackle really big societal challenges — problems or opportunities, allowing a relatively free and unconstrained approach that is distributed, rather than centralized in a unit, with a funding mechanism which is agile and responsive, and allows for failure.”
The UK agency would have no specific research focus; high appetite for risk; and focus on the long term. The document cites quantum computing and molecular biology as examples of cutting-edge areas for research.
Sunak didn’t say when the agency would be established, or where.
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The chancellor promised more generally to increase the UK’s spend on research and development to £22 billion ($28 billion) a year. The goal would be to increase the UK’s research spend to 2.4% of GDP, in line with the US and China.
“We are a country of Newton, Hodgson, and Turing,” said Sunak. “Ours is a country of ideas, invention and discovery and is truly a national history… To compete and succeed over the next decade and beyond, we need to recapture that spirit.”
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