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Editorial Snapshot: The UK’s new approach to ambitious targets

- G.A., Senior Editor

The UK government has set an aggressive target to address the growing threat of global warming. Specifically, the UK is the first major economy requiring net zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050. However, there is some concern that the existing framework for scientific research in the UK may not be able to produce the kinds of innovation required to meet such a strict deadline.

Consequently, in a speech at the opening of Parliament in October 2019, the UK science minister Chris Skidmore outlined plans to establish a new funding agency to propel advances in cutting-edge fields. Modeled after DARPA in the United States, this new system will offer greater freedom to researchers by reducing bureaucracy and targeting larger problems.

Whether this proposed funding agency will receive funds outside of the existing UK Research and Innovation department, effectively increasing the government’s funding of research overall, remains to be seen. However, by taking a more streamlined approach, it may be possible for such an agency to leverage even small increases in funding to generate meaningful results.

As is often the case, when facing challenges, it is necessary to try novel approaches in order to produce positive results. Given the potential benefits that could result from the UK achieving net zero emissions, let’s hope that this new and more aggressive approach to research will be as successful for scientists in the UK as DARPA has been in the United States.

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