James Sunderland welcomes new agency aimed at funding “high-risk, high-pay off” research ventures

James Sunderland welcomes the Advanced Research and Invention Agency Bill which will establish a new research funding agency specifically aimed at providing long-term investment in “high-risk, high-pay off” innovation and research ventures. 

James Sunderland (Bracknell) (Con)

It is a great privilege to speak in this important debate and to be part of an ever decreasing group of diehards from the new intake.

In November 2020, the spending review set out the Government’s plan to invest £14.6 billion in R and D in 2021-22 at 2.4% of GDP. That got me thinking and it got the juices flowing. One thing that struck me most about this Government is their appetite for the future: they plan, they set targets and they invest. They have ambition. They support opportunity. We can name it and it is there: electrification, infrastructure, and emissions. We were the first western nation in the world to specify a carbon neutral target. It is not about plans for the next five years, but about the next generation and over-the-horizon planning, which is really important.

The Bill has everything. It is about performing or commissioning others to conduct scientific research, developing and exploiting, and autonomy. It provides financial freedom for those willing to take the risk. It allows early decisions to be taken, it contributes to economic growth, it promotes innovation and it improves quality of life in the UK because this is about the future, and the future is really important. It also gives the freedom to fail, which for any innovator is really significant. Backed by £800 million of Government investment, the Bill complements the work that UK Research and Innovation and the R and D road map already set in concrete. It is really exciting and I commend it strongly to the House.

The Government have made no secret of their wish for the UK to become the innovation powerhouse of the world. The Bill is about maintaining and enhancing our competitive advantage. It is about synergy between public and private research. We can foster a better collaborative environment, with commercial and state investment coming together. ARIA’s funding will be absolutely pivotal, and I welcome it.

Before I sum up, I want to say that outside London, the Thames valley really is the economic powerhouse of the south-east, and Bracknell, my constituency, is the silicon valley of the Thames valley. With neighbouring Slough having the highest concentration outside London of UK headquarters of global companies, and the offices of 150 international companies in Bracknell, the Thames valley is absolutely ready to welcome employers and innovators to our area. Look at what we already have, though: the UK head office of Boehringer Ingelheim, Daler-Rowney, Honda, 3M, Dell, Waitrose, Fujitsu, Panasonic—the list goes on. It is a fantastic place to do business and I urge any CEO or director watching the debate to bring their business to Bracknell. It is a great place to be.

We often forget just how important innovation is to the UK and across the world. Fittingly, given current circumstances, we should recall Edward Jenner, who created the world’s first vaccine back in 1796. In 1930, Sir Frank Whittle patented the jet engine. More recently, in 1990, in the most important step forward in global communications, Sir Tim Berners-Lee created the worldwide web. What is yet to come? What else is out there? What do we not yet know? The Bill certainly paves the way. To summarise in three simple words: bring it on.