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The Conservative Party first stated its intention to create a new research funding agency in its 2019 manifesto. In the October 2019 Queen’s Speech, the Government confirmed plans to develop proposals for the agency. 

The bill has several purposes. Firstly, it would establish the Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA). Secondly, it sets out ARIA’s functions. These are focused on conducting “ambitious” scientific research “with a tolerance to failure”. Thirdly, the bill would enable the secretary of state to make grants to ARIA and to provide it with funding.

The bill was introduced in the House of Commons on 2 March 2021. It was carried over into the new parliamentary session and completed its House of Commons stages on 7 June 2021. 

The creation of ARIA was generally welcomed in the House of Commons. However, several concerns were raised by Members of Parliament. This included questions over the agency’s mandate, composition, and accountability, particularly its exemption from the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Amendments addressing these concerns were tabled by the Opposition and Scottish National Party during the bill’s committee and report stages. However, none of these amendments were agreed to. The bill was not amended in the House of Commons.

The bill has been welcomed by organisations and stakeholders within research, science and technology, such as the Royal Academy for Engineering and Wellcome. However, several organisations, including the Institute for Physics, have expressed concern that ARIA does not have a clear mandate. In addition, concerns have also been raised regarding the long-term funding of the agency.

The bill was introduced in the House of Lords on 8 June 2021. This briefing provides a background to the bill, details its provisions and sets out some immediate reaction to the bill ahead of second reading in the House of Lords on 2 November 2021.

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