The RSE has responded to a consultation by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee on a New UK Research Funding Agency.
The submission argued that the new agency should look to take on big, societal challenges. The timeframe for research will be important, as will confidence that funding will be available in the medium and long term.
UK ARPA should be established with a clear agenda, distinct from that of the existing Research Councils. The adoption of a high-risk culture would set it apart and add true value to the research and development ecosystem.
Coordination across relevant Government departments and the devolved administrations will be essential in the success of the new agency. UK ARPA will also require a high level of operational independence to be truly effective.
To succeed, the new agency will require strong, independent leadership; a flat structure with extensive networking; recruitment of innovative scientists, and programme directors; and capacity to proudly embrace the high-risk nature of research.
Serious consideration will be required over the choice of long-term mission and there must be genuine informed debate over which major challenges the new agency takes on.
A strategic public-sector customer of sufficient risk-appetite will be required. The UK Government will need to consider carefully what action needs to be taken to fill this role for the new agency.
While the RSE would welcome a decision to base the new agency outside the “Golden Triangle”, of greater importance is that it provides opportunities to the most talented young scientists and harnesses expertise wherever it is found within the UK. Serious consideration should be given to whether the new agency could be established as a virtual organisation.
Prof Paul Hagan