back to article British govt emits fuzzy vision for UK version of American boffin special forces group Darpa

Speaking to the UK’s House of Commons Science and Technology Committee last autumn, Dr Peter Highnam, US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) deputy director, said: “Having national security as the mission frames everything. It is not wide open; there is always context and use cases.” Darpa is the agency the UK …


  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    I assume the head of it will be known as "Q".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Well we've had the CDE and DSA, now please meet...

      Well the CDE wasnt great and was absolutely opaque as to how it allocated contracts. I've also heard strange things regarding how Phase 2 of the initial submission (through DSTL) were procured (as in you must use our preferred middle-man and hand IPR over to them). I think its fair to say that the reviewers had their favourites...

      Defence Accelerator - they want you to have had 'traction and support from the customer' ie already been driven by someone in the forces. Pretty much unless you're a Prime and already working with Customer 1 then they won't provide any support (including brokering contact with someone who would find the work interesting).

      I can't see this being any different - the Primes will dominate the funding and thinking. In today's world this means yesterdays technology at tomorrows prices.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More Cummings nonsense. Exempting it from FOIA is ludicrous - surely the whole point of an agency engaged in fundamental research is to open the books on everything they do? That's how we learn from their valuable mistakes.

    Cummings just wanted a personal piggy bank to spend on his harebrained schemes (buying some obsolete comms satellites as a GALILEO replacement anyone?) without having to explain what the money was being spent on or why. Now that he's gone our utterly corrupt government have latched onto this as a new way to shovel money to their mates without oversight.

    Just give the £800m to universities ffs. God knows they need it.

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge


      what's that?

      And the proposed budget for this is a rounding error compared to what's been lobbed to chums and drinking buddies

    2. Cynic_999


      ... buying some obsolete comms satellites as a GALILEO replacement ...


      At least he is not planning to use them to make Skynet ...

      1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

        At least he is not planning to use them to make Skynet ...

        Are you sure? Better check his blogs just to be sure. Let's hope he does not read The Register, else he'll get ideas and call Boris. I am not so sure that Boris has escaped his influence.

        1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

          FYI .... File Pending

          Better check his blogs just to be sure. Let's hope he does not read The Register, else he'll get ideas and call Boris. I am not so sure that Boris has escaped his influence. ..... Fruit and Nutcase

          Don't be betting any good money on no El Regers showing prime lead by getting in direct touch with Dom with some info for pondering on, Fruit and Nutcase.

          For sure the following, strangely entitled Sorted weirdos and misfits with odd skills is honestly true and was sent and apparently received on Sunday, 19 Jul 2020, 08:50 via delivery through ideasfornumber10 at ..........

          You have Registered mail, Dominic, which would claim to be of interest right up your street …….

          Do you not wonder about what he might be doing nowadays since escaping Boris's effluence?

          1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

            Further to the Above, FYI .... File Pending

            And just so that it cannot be future said that those prime crowing crown departments of military and civilian intelligence* and Five Eyes partnerships weren't informed of certain odd skills which be subsequently found to be gainfully better employed and enjoyed and exploited and expanded upon by others, both alien and foreign and smarter, because home grown base advanced intelligence services proved themselves conclusively to be not up to the task of their stealthy virtual deployment, programming and reprogramming projects with live event horizons, is it one's civic duty to inform them of the opportunity to avail themselves of future strange services to ensure ignorance of the fact and always standing offer is impossible, hence the very public cc test of www monitoring and mentoring/spooky surveillance and timeous contact below ..... and propose their facilitation of a practically immediate clandestine engagement with suitable, necessarily covert arrangements/strictly need to know utility whenever anything be of a particularly and peculiarly sensitive nature.

            Think of it as an initial pathfinder, which is certainly into testing both the program efficacy and administrative commitment of that and those championing those very bold and brazen ARIA mission statements, before any next almighty steps be taken either with, or without, leading Western Home Virtual Terrain Team Players in the Vanguard shining Lights on the New Way of Doing Sublime Internet Networking Things.

            The assertion here now is, that all of the above, is exactly what slush funding from an ARIA account is for ..... high-risk research that offers the chance of high rewards, supporting ground-breaking discoveries that could transform people’s lives for the better.”

            One thing is certainly definite, if it aint ARIA and UKGBNI government funded and invested, the private and pirate state and non-state actor government sectors are there to fill the void and feed on the fruits of their labour and smarter intelligence.

            * .... cc MI5/MI6/GCHQ/NCSC/SAIS/MuI7 etc etc etc

            Surely you don't think the future is going to be anything like the past with the present and tomorrow being no different from today or yesterday? That is surely quite insane and completely illogical.

        2. jdiebdhidbsusbvwbsidnsoskebid Bronze badge

          And if you do check his blogs, be sure to confirm the revision history!

          TL;DR Cummings changed his blog on biosecurity respectively to make it look like he predicted the covid pandemic, and later claimed that he had predicted it. Luckily, the wayback machine existed.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Skynet 6 still going

          It appears as though Skynet-6 will carry on as normal. From June last year:

          When the Oneweb investment was announced, I did wonder if they planned to use it as a replacement for Skynet-5 (due to end in 2022 apparently), but last year's announcements make it seem as though UKGov will spend money on both.

          [Skynet is a real system. It's been called that since the 70s.]

    3. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      ARIA to develop a personal Eye Test device. Dominic Cummings to perform field trials

    4. Big_Boomer

      Cummings gone?

      What on earth makes you think that? Is he in Downing Street? No, but these days you can do your puppeteering remotely.

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: Cummings gone?

        What on earth makes you think that? Is he in Downing Street? No, but these days you can do your puppeteering remotely. ..... Big_Boomer

        Yes, quite so, Big_Boomer. In ages of wholesale deceit and fake MSM news, practically nothing is ever as it virtually seems .... and that creates entire networks peddling worlds full to overflowing with overwhelming unilateral consequences, the smartest of which are not at all unintentional nor unpleasantly inconsequential.

        All one can say in all truthfulness since his walking out of the door, is that no worthy remote puppeteering has been uncovered in any fanciful MSM tales, so either he's busy elsewhere doing his busy with everything thing or he's not busy doing anything and busy doing nothing good ....... :-) just like everyone else if they could.

  3. Whitter
    Paris Hilton

    Post "incubation" what happens? Who owns what?

    I assume all the successful outcomes would be sold off to tax-haven investors while the UK keeps all the failures?

  4. Mike 137 Silver badge

    Which is it Mr. Clark?


    It'd be nice if our government folks could get the basics right, particularly when discussing £800M projects.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Which is it Mr. Clark?

      Greg Clark is not part of government, and the name "ARIA" was published after his committee's report was written. Prior to that it has commonly been referred to as "UK ARPA", which is the term he is quoted using, hence the inconsistency in the article.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Which is it Mr. Clark?

      Well if it's ARIA at least it'll be over when the fat lady sings.

      1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

        Re: Which is it Mr. Clark?

        At least she'll have big pockets to trouser all the cash

  5. Totally not a Cylon Silver badge

    Blue skinned aliens?

    Will it be headed by a certain Miss T'Loak?

    and based at a secret facility called Omega?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Berners-Lee was at Cern when he did that, and then (as most do), moved to the US.

    Hardly a product of British innovation.

    1. druck Silver badge

      Re: WWW?

      So working as part of an international team at Cern makes him Swiss and not British?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: WWW?

        The equipment wasn't British, neither was the research, development, or his paycheck.

        "Invented by a Brit" is not the same as a "British invention"

        1. druck Silver badge

          Re: WWW?

          Are you now claiming Britain doesn't fund CERN?

          1. Dave559 Silver badge

            Re: WWW?

            The important letter in CERN is E. The fact that CERN happens to be located in Switzerland, and that TimBL is British, are both "incidental" (or at least secondary) when it comes to assigning credit in this case.

            (And, sadly, I can well believe that the current Untied Kingdom regime probably would very much like to have nothing to do with CERN, since they seem to hate everything else that involves international cooperation and shared human endeavour. I'm almost surprised that they're not shipping a few conveyor belt pizza ovens and some rubber bands to, umm, Windscale right now even as we speak…)

  7. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    A bit late?

    DARPA has been around for 60+ years now and has been behind many things we take for granted now. They have had plenty of practice. The whole idea is to have a group exploring technical and scientific fringes that would be useful to the military, the government, and the citizens in that order. I am surprised other countries do not do the same at may be a smaller scale.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A bit late?

      > I am surprised other countries do not do the same at may be a smaller scale.

      My impression is that it's precisely scale what makes DARPA work. To put it crudely: having lots of money means that you can adequately fund the few successful projects even while knowing that most of the money will be pissed away in failures.

      It's a bit analogous to venture capital: the US (mainly Silicon Valley) is able to provide billions in funding while for instance European VCs can on a good day manage a few tens of millions: the returns (for the bits that work) will be much less impressive.

    2. Danny Boyd

      Re: A bit late?

      "Useful to the military and the government" - yes. To the citizens - no, not DARPA's concern. However, all military- and government-oriented developments quickly get picked up by private operators, who bring them to citizenry.

  8. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    The Flip Side of Troubles is Invaluable Lessons are Learned, Built Upon and Never Forgotten

    Darpa is the agency the UK government so painfully wants to mimic with its Advanced Research & Invention Agency, or Aria, launched today.

    Try as one might like to conclude and exude and extrude an air of fuzzy vision, to even imagine experienced Universal Virtual Forces with tried and extensively betatested Immaculately Resourced Assets into servering novel programs and projects underwritten by Sterling UKGBNI Investment in extremely lucrative and both able to be either catastrophically damaging or creatively disturbing with quite uniquely unexpected and exclusive proprietary intellectual property, when one is talking of successful ARIA terms of engagement and heads of agreement, would be a mimic of any other current paramilitary force or experimental source, rather than exemplary role model for all future DARPA like iterations to blindly copy and try to emulate, is to have one question one's suitability for engagement and support in the field.

    What part[s] of Aria [sic] is tasked with “funding high-risk research that offers the chance of high rewards, supporting ground-breaking discoveries that could transform people’s lives for the better.” are fuzzy and/or difficult to simply understand? Can it be said any clearer?

  9. Kevin Johnston


    I presume this will be a different ARIA to the one which had the VAT confusion recently?

  10. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    Call it DREADCO

    I'm old enough to remember the regular columns in New Scientist about the inventor Daedalus and his company DREADCO (Daedalus Research and Development Corporation), with its principle that all major scientific inventions were discovered while looking for something else entirely, so scientists should be encouraged to be totally irresponsible. I'd have loved to work at a place like that.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Call it DREADCO

      Exactly! This complaint that ARIAs mission is "unfocused" seems a bit odd because that's exactly the point. Focussed research on a known subject likely to to produce a useful result is what the other existing organisations are doing. The whole point of ARIA is to go for the less obvious "blue sky" stuff and hope that at least some pay off to justify it's existence.

  11. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    Been there, done the privatisation already

    Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) ended getting split to form Qinetiq.

    How long before Aria goes the same way, with preferential shares to... nod, nod, wink, wink

    1. twellys

      Re: Been there, done the privatisation already

      I was going to say the same - DERA => (DSTL &) QinetiQ => QinetiQ sold off and apparently their HQ is the US...

      1. NIck Hunn

        Re: Been there, done the privatisation already

        The real risk is that if it's put together by the same people who have done those, then it will end up going down the same route, which gains us nothing.

        I have a lot of sympathy for the DREADCO approach, as it does allow thinking outside the box, which might come up with something useful, Certainly more so that pouring the money into universities or Qinetic2. The biggest challenge will be selecting the ideas to fund. I've been involved in judging a number of government funding schemes, and in general the proposals that come through the door are largely requests for money to keep engineers and academics with limited vision or ability off the streets. This needs to be bigger and bolder if it has any chance of working.

        Sadly, it's likely to be tarred as a Cummings legacy, which will kill it off. Which would be a shame, as it could be useful, even if it's just to encourage people to think laterally.

        1. keithpeter Silver badge

          Re: Been there, done the privatisation already

          @Mr/Dr Hunn

          If you were in charge of a DREADCO like organisation, how would you find projects to fund? Would you...

          * basically find and fund people that had ideas

          * identify problems and throw resources at them

          * take over small projects from Universities/other orgs that had hit a ceiling but showed promise

          * something else

          1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

            Re: Been there, done the privatisation already @keithpeter

            You ask some pertinent questions about a DREADCO like organisation there, in your reply to Mr/Dr Hunn, keithpeter.

            I'm particularly and peculiarly enamoured of the simple funding of great people with magnanimous ideas and that find government funds or explore private wealth to boot as root.

            Beware the project[s] worth limitless government funding and costing next to nothing to run ...... with the lavish astute use a simple magic plastic credit/debit card guaranteeing immediate access and ubiquitous spontaneous universal delivery from a securely vaulted flash fiat cash stash pile/privately bonded government fund of both everything and anything required and providing necessarily interest raising feeds and seeds reflective of principal market driver needs, and which would itself make earthly contact attractive to all sectors, whether public or private or pirate, state or non-state actor or renegade rogue freelancer and mercenary with helpful vital information about how easy it is for principal mover and shaker drivers to be paid in an extremely convenient manner which is mutually beneficially guaranteed, and is immediately indicative to the card holder of future likely services being satisfactory and to continue, or there being a tragic termination of association via the simple expedient of the magic plastic card not working as it usually did and such cards normally always do, for it sends out a very clear message that future services are no longer required to be delivered to that particular non-paying customer/client ...... which is/are not heeded, for they are capable of bringing more insufferable pain and crushing trouble than was ever before imagined and never ever thought humanly possible.

            Take care. Be aware of those facts. They are not fictions.

            1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

              Re: Been there, done the privatisation already @keithpeter

              And as we all know, there is always the magic money tree of insatiable defence to shake and/or threaten to expose has catastrophic systemic future vulnerabilities easily exploitable, which never ever has had any trouble in providing funding for whatever is deemed required ...... London Calling for Military Tech Cooperation

              It's a fabulous source of grateful remuneration and every nation/state/non-state actor affords the facility and utility and service.

              And such a honey pot attracts all manner of busy bees and killer hornet hosts, with some attack rich sectors/vectors significantly riskier than others to adequately defend and prevent from defeat because of the ideas shared and actions carried out by a whole host of useful others rendering defensive activities negatively self-incriminating and self-destructive.

              Here is a recently shared example of the complex/simple problem which may have no immediate or future simple/complex solution .......

              GrahamC [2102210708] …… being quite clear about certain engaging matters on

              Be in no doubt, in the fields of cybersecurity, and especially so those in the virtual team terrain of sensitive stealthy operations which are intelligently designed to lead ACTive global scale missions, to imagine and propose that harmful risk will, or can ever be effectively managed and successfully mitigated to any degree which would bring it anywhere near close to a comforting and convenient elimination, is not a realistic expectation.

              However, notwithstanding that, to not seek to reduce the risk by the exercise of such inquisitive controls as contractors are currently duty bound to endure and assure for gainful operational employment and lucrative remuneration, would certainly be unwise and a text book case manic exercise of madness for mayhem, consummate conflict and catastrophic chaos which exists and will persist. It is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.

              The brave new world of the digitally augmented future is no safe and secure space place for the less than perfectly prepared. Take care out there, for there be AI Monsters and IntelAIgent Daemons, Heavenly Global Operating Devices and Hellish Angels at Tomorrow’s Work, Rest and Play Today, ACTive in Engaging Fields of Persistent and Consistent Alien Endeavour out there.

              Interesting times ahead in deed, indeed.:-)

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Been there, don10e the privatisation already @amanfromMars

                -on Feb 23rd, 2021-


        2. jdiebdhidbsusbvwbsidnsoskebid Bronze badge

          Re: Been there, done the privatisation already

          To be fair, it wasn't the people running DERA that led to it being privatised, but the government at the time who said that DERA should charge the MOD less for the work, and the way to do it was to subsidise government work by doing private stuff at a higher rate. The seeds were thus sown for the subsequent privatisation that created QinetiQ and dstl.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    .....stable door, horse......oh dear.......long gone................................. the news today......................

    1. Once upon a time .... the UK had an aircraft know...Gloster, English Electric, Supermarine, Fairie, Short Brothers, Hawker, de Havilland........

    2. Once upon a time .... the UK had a computer know...LEO, English Electric, ICL, Ferranri, Inmos, Armstrad, ARM.........

    .....but that was then. For the last thirty years the basic idea has been -- "find the cheapest source". First in the USA, and more recently in China.

    ....and we have indeed found "the cheapest source".....but while doing that....local academics, local design and local manufacturing have all been hollowed out.

    So today.....everything comes from China, and our universities are all dependent on students from......guess.....China!

    Good luck with a "new policy" to encourage local research and local manufacturing!!!

    1. Danny Boyd

      Re: .....stable door, horse......oh dear.......long gone.................................

      With the above said, why don't we consider whatever goes on in China "local research and local manufacturing"?

  13. David M

    Red tape

    ...Kwasi Kwarteng said Aria would accelerate innovation by "stripping back unnecessary red tape..."

    I bet there are already armies of bureaucrats preparing thick manuals and lengthy forms to implement this stripping back of red tape.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Red tape

      One of Sir Humphrey's principles: in order to reduce the size of the Civil Service you need more Civil Servants.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Exempting it from FOIA ...

    ... so they can give huge bungs to their mates.

    That's Tory Retirement Planning for you.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Exempting it from FOIA ... is No Laughing Matter for a Very Good Reason

      Exempting it from FOIA ..... so they can give huge bungs to their mates. ..... Anonymous Coward

      Listen carefully, AC, for it is normally only said once in all extreme exempt from FOIA situations ..... Knowledge of certain information can get you killed stone dead very quickly.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Exempting it from FOIA ...

      ...and no other teasing reason, AC? How strange is that you give it no other explaination. Is it really as just as like what all the people do on this planet/side of the Pond, is grabbing the amounts closer to their mortal bodies?

      Being such, the world would seem a murky and dull place to stay in, which is, luckily, not so. Of course man, this drive you draw on map has its traffic only in your own universe.

      Or, grab your own ones, this procedure is becoming yet more and more democratic since the Stone Age.

    3. Danny Boyd

      Re: Exempting it from FOIA ...

      You really think Labour would do it differently? We're talking advanced research for defense. You expect them to publish their musings in The Register weekly? Would be interesting, I'm sure.

    4. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Just asking in order to know who and where not to do deals with.

      Exempting it from FOIA ...... so they can give huge bungs to their mates. .... Anonymous Coward

      Is the Matt Hancock pictured here ....... ...... the same one adjudged by Mr Justice Chamberlain to have broken the law whenever handing out tens, and maybe even hundreds of millions of pounds of public money which nobody had/has, and he certainly did not own, without judicious oversight, as in indiscriminately, as is reported here on the BBC .....

      Is that a criminal offence which would have a Joe Bloggs summarily arrested, tried before a jury of peers, and sentenced to jail where he could languish to contemplate on his stupidity and error.

      Or is there another course of exclusive executive action which avoids any punitive custodial incarceration and justice being applied to a poorly chosen few masquerading as competent members of Parliament and government ministers in a complicit Cabinet Office position ‽ .

      If that is justice in a postmodern engaging democracy, then the law there is surely certainly a FCUKing Ass and unfit for future greater intelligent purpose?

  15. Lorribot

    Aria is a online IT component supplier (once known as Watford electronic I believe) who recently had some ...HMRC legal issues ( , that ended in the high court. Not sure they would be happy for the government to use their name in relation to some IT related ...anything.

  16. 2pots

    Watch the movie Eagle Eye

    The AI supercomputer was named ARIIA. And look what it did. Maybe they should pick a different name?


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