Imperial president Professor Alice Gast has been chosen as a non-executive member of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). She is one of twelve board appointments recently announced by science minister Jo Johnson.
UKRI, which will formally come into being in April 2018, seeks to develop the strength of its constituent research councils, Innovate UK, and new council Research England. It will advise on budget allocation (including the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund) to maximise the benefits of the government’s annual £6 billion investment in research.
UKRI lists its objectives as pushing the “frontiers of human knowledge” and creating economic and social impact. Documents published by UKRI also claim the UK produces a “disproportionate percentage of the world’s top research” which must be better translated into commercial outcomes. This focus on the economy is made clear by the high proportion of business leaders on the board. UKRI has said it will push for quality and competition and stick to the Haldane principle (i.e. researchers will decide where funds are directed, not politicians).
Professor Gast said: “UKRI aims to be the best research and innovation organisation in the world and will play a critical role in making sure we have an environment where research and innovation will flourish. I look forward to working with the science minister and my colleagues on the board to support our world-leading institutions as we push the boundaries of discovery for the benefit of all in our society.”
Johnson said: “UKRI has a pivotal role in our future as a knowledge economy. This is an exceptionally strong board that will ensure the UK’s world-leading research system stays at the frontier of science and innovation for decades to come.”
Those UKRI board appointments in full
Sir John Kingman (Chair)
Former Rothschild banker and Treasury mandarin who oversaw the UK’s largest ever privatisation and bank bailouts after the 2008 financial crash. He is the current chair of financial services group Legal & General.
Audit committee chair of Nuffield Health and chair of the Wessex Academic Health Science Network. Sits on the Treasury’s major projects review group. Formerly involved with PR, consultancy, and market analysis companies.
Co-founder and head of Applied AI at DeepMind. A data sharing agreement with the NHS which saw DeepMind receive millions of medical records was criticised as “highly questionable” and riddled with “inexcusable” mistakes.
Professor Julia Black
LSE pro-director of research, research associate at the Centre for the Analysis of Risk and Regulation, former adviser to bodies including the OECD, NAO, and FSA.
Sir Peter Bazalgette
Executive chair of ITV and former chair of Arts Council England. Claimed that creative careers were seen as “worse than drug dealing or prostitution.”
Sir Leszek Borysiewicz
Chair of Cancer Research UK. Recently retired vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge.
Lord (John) Browne of Madingley
Chair of Francis Crick Institute, executive chair of L1 Energy. Authored the Browne report, which recommended lifting tuition fee caps and raising the repayment threshold.
Sir Harpal Kumar
Chief executive of Cancer Research UK and former McKinsey consultant.
Professor Max Lu
President and vice-chancellor of the University of Surrey.
Sir Ian Diamond
Principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Aberdeen. Sir Ian chairs Lloyds Banking Group Foundation and is the deputy chair of UCAS.
Professor Alice Gast
President of Imperial. Professor Gast also sits on Chevron’s board of directors.
Head of engagement at Genomics England, scientific journalist, broadcaster, and TV presenter (Tomorrow’s World, Panorama).
Lord (David) Willetts
Executive chair of the Resolution Foundation, director and sole owner of financial and educational advisory service Marchmount Executive Services, which reported profits of £605 after paying £5,777 in tax and £22,500 in dividends in the financial year to August 2016. He provided the “intellectual thrust” behind the private finance initiative, which was at the centre of a special report by Paul Foot in Private Eye (Eye 1102). He also once claimed that feminism held back working men.
Dame Sally Davies
As Chief Medical Officer and serving civil servant, Dame Sally will join board meetings in a personal capacity but will not be a formal board member.