US research director named first chief executive of Advanced Research and Invention Agency

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng today (1 February 2022) appointed Dr Peter Highnam as Chief Executive of the new UK Agency for Advanced Research and Invention (ARIA), to spearhead the creation of the agency and direct its initial funding of high-risk programs.

ARIA forms an essential part of the UK government’s science and research programme. Backed by £800million, it will allow outstanding scientists to focus on high-risk projects at the frontier of discovery and innovation that could transform people’s lives for the better, maintaining the position of the UK on the international stage as a scientific superpower.

UK-born Dr Peter Highnam brings a wealth of experience that makes him uniquely suited to take on this role, as he joins ARIA from the US research agency DARPA where he has held the position of Deputy Director since February 2018. He will take up his duties as ARIAis the first CEO on May 3, 2022, for a fixed term of 5 years.

ARIA builds on models that have proven successful in other countries, including the influential US Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) model. This has been instrumental in creating transformational technologies such as the Internet and GPSchanging 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, resulting in covid-19 therapies.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said:

The appointment of Dr Peter Highnam is a major triumph for the UK. Its expert leadership will drive the formation of the agency, securing funding for high-risk programs that will continue to push the boundaries of science and technology.

Under the direction of Dr. Highnam, ARIA ensure that the benefits of research and development are felt in our society and our economy over generations, and that the technologies, discoveries, products and ideas in which the agency invests are supported to create the industries of tomorrow.

The government is committed to increasing public investment in R&D to £20 billion in 2024-25, and ARIA will be an integral and invaluable addition to the rise of the UK R&D ecosystem.

Operate with flexibility and speed, avoiding unnecessary bureaucracy and experimenting with different funding models, ARIA will ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of experimental research.

Science Minister George Freeman said:

The UK scientific community has a proud history of discovery, and the imagination and creativity of our researchers and innovators – from Isaac Newton to Ada Lovelace, Frank Whittle, Alan Turing and the team of Dame Sarah Gilbert who have developed the covid-19 vaccine – continue to transform our world.

The appointment of Dr. Peter Highnam as ARIAis the first CEO will enable our groundbreaking new agency to push the boundaries of high-risk science into the 21st century. His impressive wealth of experience puts him in a unique position to lead the funding of the UK’s most innovative projects and maintain our status as a leading innovation nation.

Dame Ottoline Leyser, UK’s Chief Research and Innovation Officer, said:

Dr. Peter Highnam’s extensive experience in leading the development and translation of transformational ideas will be a tremendous asset to ARIA and the UK research and innovation system.

ARIA has a unique role to play in the ecosystem, strengthening the UK’s ability to experiment with new approaches to finding and supporting people and ideas at the frontiers of discovery and innovation.

On behalf of UKRI I would like to welcome Dr. Highnam to his new role. I look forward to working alongside him to unlock the full potential of researchers and innovators across the UK to improve people’s lives.

With the appointment of Dr. Highnam as CEO, the search for ARIAThe first Chair also resumed today.

This is an unprecedented opportunity to help design and build ARIA from scratch, as the President will help Dr. Peter Highnam deliver ARIAthe objectives and innovative ambitions of . The President will also be a key adviser to the CEOand ensuring the effectiveness of the agency’s governance.

All applications will be reviewed by an Evaluation Advisory Committee consisting of the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance; BEIS‘ Managing Director for Science, Innovation and Growth, Jo Shanmugalingam; CEO and co-founder of DeepMind, Demis Hassabis CBE, former chair of the Vaccine Task Force and managing partner at SV Health Investors, Kate Bingham DBE.

This appointment will be a fair and open process, overseen by Executive Search Saxton Bampflyde. More information on the role of ARIA The chair is available on the Saxton Bampflyde website.


Dr. Peter Highnam joined DARPA in February 2018 as Deputy Director and served as Acting Director 2 times.

He previously served as director of research at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and director of Intelligence Advanced Research Projects.

He worked at the US Department of Health and Human Services from 2003 to 2009, as a senior adviser to the National Institute of Health.

Born in the UK, he received his undergraduate degree from the University of Manchester, his master’s degree from the University of Bristol and holds a doctorate in computer science from Carnegie Mellon University.