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Business News

Government’s new invention agency ARIA stalls hunt for inaugural chairman


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The government has postponed the search for the inaugural chair of its new “high risk, high reward” inventions agency – the latest in a string of Whitehall searches to have stalled this year.

Sky News has learnt that headhunters acting for ministers have been ordered to pause the process of recruiting a chair for the Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA).

Instead, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is prioritising the appointment of a chief executive for ARIA, despite having engaged in talks with candidates for the chairmanship for months.

Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy on Victoria Street, London 27/3/2020
Image: BEIS is prioritising the appointment of a chief executive for ARIA

The new body, which will have an initial budget of £800m, was unveiled in February in an announcement which said it would “identify a world-class interim chief executive and chair to shape the vision, direction and research priorities for the agency”.

Neither post has been filled almost eight months later despite hopes that ARIA would be up-and-running in 2022.

The agency was the brainchild of Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s former top adviser who left Downing Street in acrimonious circumstances earlier this year.

It was billed as the crucible for “ground-breaking discoveries that could transform people’s lives”, according to a government statement in February.

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“In June we launched an open recruitment campaign for ARIA’s leadership. The field for the CEO position has been outstanding and we will announce the appointment of the successful candidate in due course,” a government spokesman said.

“Once that appointment has been made we will relaunch the recruitment for the chair, ahead of the agency becoming fully operational next year.”

The offices of Ofcom (Office of Communications) in Southwark, London.
Image: The recruitment process for the chair of Ofcom has also faced delay

The postponed search for ARIA’s inaugural chair is one of several recruitment processes for top government posts to face delays in 2021, with others including new chairs for the Financial Reporting Council and Ofcom, the media regulator.

BEIS is expected to confirm on Friday a Sky News report that it has reappointed Jonathan Scott as interim chair of the Competition and Markets Authority for another year.

 Sky News

© Sky News 2021

Written by: Rother Radio News

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