U.K. science minister says DARPA-like agency is in the works

Science | AAAS | 10/22/2019 | Staff
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The U.K. government is working to establish a “blue sky” funding agency similar to the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, U.K. science minister Chris Skidmore told the Science and Technology Select Committee of Parliament’s House of Commons today.

The idea was unveiled last week in the Queen’s Speech, in which Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s new government announced its legislative plans, but details about the agency are scarce. Skidmore told the Parliament committee that this new agency would sit outside UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the main government funding agency, to have the independence to focus on cutting-edge projects. He said it would “distinguish itself from the traditional grant-led application processes” by having minimal bureaucracy and core leaders who see the projects through.

Committee - Chair - Norman - Lamb - Skidmore

Committee Chair Norman Lamb pressed Skidmore on whether the new funding body would be under the control of the government. Skidmore didn’t answer directly, but said it could be aligned with government missions, such as the U.K. goal of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050. “We would still want the blue skies discovery-led approach” to be emphasized, Skidmore said. Skidmore said full details would be available early next year.

Meanwhile, the immediate focus is on the science budget, which is being negotiated with the Treasury. “We are still incredibly keen on having a significant lift to the science and research budget of which UKRI would be overwhelmingly the main beneficiary,” Skidmore told the committee. The Treasury will reveal...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Science | AAAS
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