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Next to an existing agency for funding research and innovation - Innovate UK, the UK government is looking to establish a new funding body specifically aimed at “blue skies, high-reward, research in artificial intelligence and data.”
Without having more details, the aims of this future agency remind of Japan’s new five-year plan for “moonshot” R&D projects in which the government plans to allocate Yen 100 billion (EUR 830 million) as seed money to start funding research on high-profile, big-ambition goals. Reports state that the agency should be roughly structured as the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). So far, there has been little reaction from British scientists who remain cautious about government reforms after the funding landscape was reshaped in the last two years, merging seven research councils and Innovate UK to form UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). As UK institutions and researchers are one of the top beneficiaries of Horizon2020, the new government has repeatedly committed to pay its way into the Horizon Europe, unless Brussels decides against it.
Positive news for scientists aiming to do their research in the UK is the announcement of the new “fast-track” visa regime for leading scientists with no limit on numbers and no need for applicants to have found a job before arriving in the country. The new regime will be called The Global Talent and it will replace existing Tier One regime. According to the reports, “Leading scientist” is an applicant who works in a “qualifying field” and is recommended by a recognised UK body like Royal Society, or the Royal Academy of Engineering. Instead of going through the Home Office, the applications will be assessed by UK Research and Innovation instead of immigration officials. It is unclear what the “qualifying fields” are, although one can with certainty assume that they include STEM, whereas scientists in humanities might need to struggle for recognition.