Michael Gove, one of the candidates for the leadership of the Conservative Party, has called for a UK equivalent of the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to be set up as part of a broader push in technology investment.
The UK Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) was dissolved in 2001. One part of it was rebranded QinetiQ and privatised in June 2001, while the less money-spinning parts were renamed the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory and retained in the Ministry of Defence.
However, in a bid to boost low levels of investment in technology, Gove has proposed effectively recreating DERA, inspired by the perceived success of DARPA, and spending more taxpayers' money on technology-based research.
"The total amount we spend as a nation on research and development is significantly less than countries such as the US, and government spending on research and development has been less than the OECD and EU average," claimed Gove in a speech on Friday.
"I am not an instinctive advocate for higher government spending. But the evidence from the most successful startup nations - US and Israel - is that thoughtful government investment in science triggers a culture of innovation more widely that generates the businesses of the future.
"The internet was a government creation, developed by DARPA, and the amazing creativity in Silicon Valley is a function not just of America's more effective venture capital system but of government leadership.
"More and more thinkers have made a compelling case for a leading role for government in creating a more entrepreneurial state. And that must be the right course for Britain - creating our own equivalent to DARPA, providing the capital for new tech innovation and helping the tech sector grow even faster."
The speech was part of Gove's pitch to the Conservative Party to support him in the upcoming leadership elections, which will also determine the next prime minister in succession to David Cameron, who resigned last Friday in the wake of the referendum vote in favour of leaving the EU.
Other contenders in the election, which should be concluded by early September, include Theresa May, the Home Secretary who has been in charge of piloting the draconian Investigatory Powers Bill through Parliament, and Andrea Leadsom, Minister of State for Energy.
Stephen Crabb, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, and Liam Fox, former defence minister, are very much outsiders.
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