Government-backed scientific research agency floated for Docklands

Canary Wharf

The government is considering Canary Wharf as a location for an £800 million scientific research agency in a boost to the east London financial district’s ambition to become a science hub.

Amanda Solloway, the science minister, has written to councillors in Tower Hamlets, confirming that the London borough, which is home to Canary Wharf, has made the shortlist for the headquarters of the Advanced Research and Invention Agency.

The agency, known as Aria, will invest in “high-risk, high-reward” science and technology projects. It is modelled on the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, or Darpa, which supported the development of the internet and many other innovations.

A group of cross-party local politicians has been campaigning for Aria to be based in Canary Wharf, which has suffered from the post-Brexit departure of the European Medicines Agency and European Banking Authority. Banks, which have long been the biggest office occupiers in the area, have been reducing their office space for years amid job cuts and relocations linked to Brexit.

So far the government has favoured locating new post-Brexit agencies outside London such as the Infrastructure Bank in Leeds.

Canary Wharf Group, which owns and manages the office district, is planning to create a life science cluster on the estate.

Solloway, who is responsible for overseeing the establishment of Aria, said “excellent points” had been made in favour of Tower Hamlets including on “its diversity, science pedigree and graduate talent pool”.