13 May 2024

What is ARIA and how to get involved?

Bethan Roullier
Head of BD Grants

What is ARIA and how to get involved? 

The Advanced Research and Invention Agency or ARIA is set to be the Government’s newest funding agency. How does this fit with the current R&D funding landscape – the UKRI, the Research Councils, and Innovate UK? ARIA will supposedly complement the work of UKRI, while building on the government’s ambitious R&D Roadmap published in July 2020. 

In this series of blogs we will introduce you to the overall aims and vision of ARIA, discuss the proposed funding routes and who can get involved, then introduce you to the first Programme Managers and their Programmes, and take a look at what might be coming up… 


The government’s approach was first outlined in the October 2019 Queen’s Speech, and the 2020 budget allocated £800 million in funding for the new agency. ARIA operates under the umbrella of the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and has a remit to fund projects with potential to produce transformative technological change, or a paradigm-shift in an area of science.  

The UK Government’s vision is to add capability to the UK’s innovation architecture by creating a high-risk high-reward programme of projects developed and delivered by leading scientists or visionary-thinkers. Interestingly it is recognised that many of these may fail in achieving their ambitious aims, but that those which succeed will have profound and positive impact on society.  

Funding Types 

ARIA will not only offer grants. Aligned with the mission to fund transformative R&D and the flexible research model proposed, funding options are also varied. Funding models proposed include seed grants, inducement prizes, grant/prize hybrids, loans, academic and Entrepreneurial Fellowships, offering equity finance, and attracting private co-financing.  

Freed from standard procurement rules, ARIA will be able to invest in existing companies, establish new companies and form/participate in partnerships and joint ventures, for the purposes of developing and exploiting scientific knowledge.   

Who can get involved 

In short, anyone. ARIA aims to attract the best and brightest whether a solo entrepreneur, a researcher or research group at an academic institution or researchers working in industry. The varied funding models are designed to attract all-comers. 

Competition-based Inducement Prizes are popular with those not usually seeking government grants. This includes companies looking for prestige, or the large community of ‘casual coders’ who have talent and time, but little knowledge of the administration side of grant applications. It is anticipated that these types of competitions will be targeting specific research goals rather than open-ended opportunities. 

Grant/Prize hybrids for instance, paying researchers a minimal grant or contractor salary to carry out research they could not otherwise afford to do up front, but incentivise high performance with a prize for a winning team. This model often attracts teams of researchers or even entrepreneurial hobbyists perhaps not funded via other means.  

Seed Grants will offer an initial incentive maybe to develop a thesis or application idea or to go further and develop a concept or prove feasibility. Only the most promising seeds are likely to then receive further larger-scale investments in pursuit of the larger aims of a Programme. The intention is that these Seed Grants can be issued rapidly overcoming some of the lengthy and bureaucratic procedures of conventional grant funding. It is even proposed that Programme Managers will be empowered to attend academic and technology conferences alongside programme stakeholder events not just to network and identify talent but to make provisional funding offers. 

The options of equity and private co-financing will likely be of interest to start-ups and University spin-outs, with the potential to create joint enterprises potentially of interest to more established businesses. There is a forthcoming framework document, which will specify the parameters for these types of activities. 

Finally it is likely that some schemes will offer staged funding with incremental offerings to researchers qualifying through different stages of a research programme. This type of funding is closely aligned with current UKRI programmes and is likely to be attractive to both established academic and industry-based researchers.  

What about international collaborations? 

This remains an open question. If ARIA wants to fund transformative research with a high chance of success then it seems obvious that this answer should be ‘yes’. Conventional R&D funding operated through UKRI often puts limits on international collaboration. The flexible model proposed by ARIA should include the ability to call on world-leading expertise regardless of geography. However, ARIA is a UK Government scheme aiming to advance the UK’s Innovation excellence. It is likely that international collaboration will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis based on the size and capability of the UK researcher market in some disciplines. 

How TBAT can help 

The variety of funding routes and models can be a minefield for potential applicants, so why not get in touch with the experts at TBAT to help you understand the proposed route of funding and how this might impact your long-term ambitions ahead of applying. 

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