A bill will be announced that will pave the way for US-style defense research organizations to support high-risk research projects, government sources confirmed.
The idea that came out in the 2019 Conservative Manifesto was the idea of Dominic Cummings, former senior advisor to Boris Johnson, who wrote extensively on the success of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa).
Some commentators expected Cummings to be quietly withheld after leaving No 10, but ministers said they thought Britain would help at the cutting edge of technology development.
The announcement by business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng could be announced this week with 800m of funding. The UK version is expected to be called Aria (Advanced Research and Invention Agency).
Kwartengs’ intention is to free the agency from some of the rules governing investments invested in taxpayer money so that it can back up projects that they know could fail.
The agency is also expected to be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, which raises concerns that there could be a confidential relationship between the government and the arms industry.
The conservative declaration said the agency will support blue sky research and investment in UK leadership in artificial intelligence and data.
Having existed for more than 60 years, Darpa worked closely with private companies in the United States to participate in the early stages of development of many technologies that were originally created for defense purposes but were much more widely used.
In a 2017 blog post, Cummings wrote: In the 1960s and 1970s, unusual people and ARPA’s unusually wise funds combined to create the community that invented the Internet and personal computers.
Cummings said he believed Brexit would liberate the UK from the constraints of EU state aid rules after allowing taxpayers to support creative early-stage research.
When Cummings left Downing Street last year, there were speculations that he would take on the plum job leading a powerful new institution, but government sources lowered it on Wednesday.
The institution is independent of the government. A business unit source said the agency will have its own chairman and chief executive officer to decide. The hope is that by 2022 the new organization will be operational.
During general election campaigns over the past few years, Johnson argued that leaving the EU would make it easier for governments to support businesses.
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