Advanced Research and Invention Agency Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:58 pm on 23rd March 2021.

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Photo of Virginia Crosbie Virginia Crosbie Conservative, Ynys Môn 4:58 pm, 23rd March 2021

It is an honour to follow my hon. Friend Jane Hunt. On Anglesey, we have a huge focus on research and innovation, which fits perfectly with the remit of ARIA. Our island hosts the Menai science park —M-SParc—which is Bangor University’s hub for creative and STEM innovation. The park supports companies and businesses in the low-carbon, energy and environment, ICT and natural product sectors, and links into the green energy agenda that Anglesey embraces through its Energy Island initiative. Professor Iwan Davies, the vice-chancellor of Bangor University, said to me recently:

“At Bangor University we treat innovation and entrepreneurship as an ecosystem with impact. An important pathway to impact is supporting funding for research and I welcome ARIA funding which can support the role that universities can play in promoting innovation, which is so often non-linear in its development.”

M-SParc has already seen the benefits of Innovate UK funding, with more than £1 million invested in 2020 in businesses such as Haia and BIC Innovation. Menter Môn—another resident at M-SParc—has spearheaded the work on the Holyhead Hydrogen Hub, which was awarded £4.8m funding in my right hon. Friend the Chancellor’s Budget earlier this month. Bangor University, M-SParc and Menter Môn are all part of my Anglesey freeport bidding consortium, and we are working together on a proposal to bring freeport status to Anglesey, with an emphasis on local innovation.

Through UK Government funding, businesses and opportunities like these are able to grow and generate much-needed local employment. Young people across the island tell me that they want to be able to afford their own home, bring up their families in their community, and keep the Welsh language and culture alive, and to do this they need a good quality job on Anglesey.

This July I will be hosting an innovation jobs fair at M-SParc which I am proud to say will be opened by my hon. Friend the Minister for Science, Research and Innovation. Not only will this fair highlight the good quality well-paid jobs that are being made available as a result of UK funding, but it will raise awareness among local young people of the opportunities afforded to them through scientific endeavour.

By filling a gap in the UK’s current R&D funding system and focusing on funding paradigm-shifting science, ARIA will provide a new source of finance that can be used by operations such as M-SParc to support transformational science projects that create real long-term benefit locally, nationally and globally.

The Managing Director of M-SParc, Pryderi ap Rhisiart said:

“R&D Funding is crucial for our network of innovative companies on the Menai Science Park. Despite the pandemic I have been especially pleased to see so many tenant companies securing R&D Funding, working with our Universities and growing in the region.”

By stimulating and supporting cutting-edge research and development, the ARIA fund also offers an opportunity for both Bangor University and Coleg Menai to attract exciting new talent to the region, creating further seams of innovation and enterprise.

As a scientist myself, I am excited that ARIA will empower the science community to identify and fund creative and groundbreaking research that can ensure the UK remains at the forefront of global innovation. The fund will allow the UK to be more responsive and flexible so that projects can be supported to give maximum impact.

I welcome the introduction of the Advanced Research and Invention Agency Bill and this new funding agency and I look forward to welcoming my hon. Friend the Minister to Anglesey to open the island’s first innovation jobs fair.