Clause 1 - Establishment of ARIA

Part of Advanced Research and Invention Agency Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:25 am on 20th April 2021.

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Photo of Amanda Solloway Amanda Solloway Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 9:25 am, 20th April 2021

What a pleasure it is to be under your chairmanship, Ms McVey, and to listen to the hon. Member for Cambridge. He talked about a wide range of issues, most which I am sure will be addressed in further debate. In this instance, I will concentrate on amendment 2 and those grouped with it.

The creation of ARIA represents an exciting opportunity to add to our already excellent research and development funding landscape. That came out very strongly on Second Reading, and I hope that today’s debate and last week’s evidence sessions demonstrate the importance of the legislation. I would like to place on record my thanks to the Opposition parties for the constructive way in which they have approached the Bill thus far, and I look forward to discussing the amendments that they have tabled.

Amendment 2 and associated amendments would change the name of the agency to the advanced research and engineering projects agency, or AREPA. I must say that when the hon. Gentleman raised this option last Wednesday, I did not realise that it was a serious suggestion. As I am sure he can imagine, a certain amount of thought and discussion has gone into choosing the name of the agency, and I do prefer the musical reference to naming the agency after a flatbread.

On a serious note, I recognise how central engineering successes have been to the historic breakthroughs of ARPA and DARPA in the United States. I found the evidence of Sir Jim McDonald of the Royal Academy of Engineering and others hugely interesting. I share the hon. Gentleman’s concern that those contributions should not be overlooked. I very much hope that ARIA builds on the history of engineering excellence that we have right across the UK, and supports the next generation of transformational breakthroughs. The powers of the body are key. I assure the Committee that just as UK Research and Innovation is able to provide funding for engineering research through the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, ARIA’s powers extend to conducting engineering projects in exactly the same way as projects in any other area of science. That important discipline has not been forgotten. Our ambitions can be achieved without renaming ARIA, and I cannot accept the amendment.