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Advanced Research and Invention Agency gets CEO and chairman

The government has named a CEO for the agency it set up to get more out of science and technology, after its original appointment couldn’t take the role

The CEO of the UK’s Advanced Research and Invention Agency (Aria) has been announced, after its initial appointment could no longer take the job for personal reasons.

The Advanced Research and Invention Agency (Aria), which was announced in February 2021, is backed by an £800m public investment, supporting high-risk research that has the potential to make a high impact on society.

Ilan Gur, who has a PhD in materials science and engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, was founder and CEO of non-profit organisation Activate, a US organisation that supports scientists and engineers bringing research to market.

In February this year, the government announced the appointment of Peter Highnam as Aria’s first CEO. He was to join from the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), where he was deputy director. But by the end of April, the government had withdrawn the announcement, after Highnan informed them he could no longer take the role.

On his appointment, Gur said: “I believe that Aria can deliver the promise of a better future, not just for citizens of the United Kingdom, but for the world.

“The opportunity to serve as Aria’s founding CEO is a great honour and a great responsibility that I will work tirelessly to fulfil.”

UK business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “[Gur] has a distinguished track record in translating exceptional talent and ideas into commercial success, and his leadership will ensure the funding of high-risk programmes that will continue to push the boundaries of science and technology.”

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The government also named Matt Clifford as Aria’s first chairman. Clifford is co-founder and CEO of startup support organisation Entrepreneur First.

Kwarteng said: “Aria will ensure the benefits of research and development will be felt in our society and economy over the course of generations.

“By stripping back unnecessary red tape and putting power in the hands of our innovators, the agency has the freedom to drive forward the technologies of tomorrow.”

The government has committed to increasing public investment in R&D to £20bn in 2024-25.

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