Innovation heavyweights named to lead new Advanced Research and Invention Agency

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  • Ilan Gur, founder and former CEO of innovation non-profit Activate, appointed to lead the Advanced Research and Invention Agency – the UK’s new independent science funding body
  • under Dr. Gur’s leadership as its first CEO, ARIA will have the freedom to quickly identify and fund transformational science and technology with minimal bureaucracy
  • Matt Clifford MBE, Co-Founder and CEO of Entrepreneur First, Appointed First Chairman of ARIA

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng today appointed Ilan Gur as Chief Executive of the UK’s new Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA), to set the agency’s agenda, lead its seed funding of high-risk programs, build an exceptional team of program managers, and engage national and international actors R&D sector.

Today also marks the appointment of talented investor and entrepreneur Matt Clifford as ARIAChairman of the Board, who will support the work of the CEO when he took office on August 15, as intendant for ARIAeffective governance.

ARIA will enable outstanding scientists and researchers to identify and fund transformational research that leads to new technologies, discoveries, products and services – helping to maintain the UK’s position as a global scientific superpower and attracting top talent on our shores to grow the economy, drive prosperity and develop the breakthroughs of the future.

Dr. Gur has built his career managing cutting-edge research and innovation for the benefit of society, primarily in his role as founder and CEO of the nonprofit Activate, a US-based organization that enables scientists and engineers to bring groundbreaking research to market. Activate has supported 142 fellows and catalyzed the creation of over 100 science-based start-ups under the expert leadership of Mr. Gur.

Dr. Gur has also created 2 science start-ups and was part of the first generation of program directors at ARPA-Ethe US Department of Energy’s agency for funding breakthrough innovations in energy technologies.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said:

The appointment of Ilan Gur as ARIAis the first CEO is a huge win for the future of the agency and for the UK. He has a proven track record of translating exceptional talent and ideas into commercial success, and his leadership will secure funding for high-risk programs that will continue to push the boundaries of science and technology.

Under the direction of Dr Gur and with the support of the brilliant Matt Clifford, ARIA will ensure that the benefits of research and development will be felt in our society and our economy over generations.

By removing unnecessary red tape and putting the power in the hands of our innovators, the agency has the freedom to advance the technologies of tomorrow.

ARIA was inspired by the success of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), which has been instrumental in creating transformational technologies such as the Internet and GPS, changing the way people live and work, while increasing productivity and economic growth.

More recently, ARPAthe successor of, DARPAwas a key funder before the pandemic mRNA vaccines and antibody therapies, leading to critical COVID-19 therapies.

incoming ARIA CEOIlan Gur said:

I believe that ARIA can deliver the promise of a better future, not just for the citizens of the UK, but for the world.

The possibility of serving as ARIAis founder CEO is a great honor and a great responsibility that I will endeavor to assume without respite.

The government has presented plans to create ARIA in February 2021 to fund high-risk, high-reward scientific research and maintain the UK’s position as a scientific superpower, with the ARIA Legislation receiving Royal Assent in February 2022. The Agency is expected to be established later this year.

To support the arrival CEO and President, recruitment campaigns were also launched today to find ARIA‘s Non-Executive Director and the agency’s first Chief Financial Officer.

Incoming President of ARIAMatt Clifford MBEsaid:

ARIA has the potential to create a new model for accelerating the scientific and technological breakthroughs the world needs.

I am honored to have the opportunity to work with Ilan Gur to guide ARIA through his formative years and ensure his success.

The government is committed to increasing public investment in R&D to £20 billion in 2024-25, with a total R&D spending reaching 2.4% of GDP by 2027, and ARIA will be an integral and invaluable addition to the rise of the UK R&D ecosystem.

It will operate with the agility needed to fund transformational science, with the pace, freedom and flexibility of a tech start-up and the facilities of established UK science infrastructure, avoiding unnecessary bureaucracy and experimenting with different models of financing.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Chief Executive, Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, said:

The arrival of ARIA will further strengthen the UK research and innovation system. I am delighted with the appointment of Ilan Gur and Matt Clifford as Founders CEO and president. They will provide the expertise and energy to make this a success and I very much look forward to working with them.

ARIA will play a key role in diversifying the ways we support talented people and teams working on truly transformative ideas, wherever and whomever they are. Together we can build the dynamic and creative research and innovation system essential to the UK’s prosperity.

Notes to Editors

  • Ilan Gur earned a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. He is a Schmidt Futures Innovation Fellow, an advisor to the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation for the Moore Inventor Fellowship, and a judge for MIT Technology Review TR35 Award
  • Matt Clifford MBE is co-founder and CEO of Entrepreneur First, a global tech talent investor that has helped build more than $10 billion in technology companies. Clifford is also co-founder and non-executive director of Code First Girls, was a board member of Innovate UK and is a trustee of the Kennedy Memorial Trust. Prior to starting Entrepreneur First, Matt worked at McKinsey & Co and earned degrees from the University of Cambridge and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
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