Professor Sir Mark Walport named as first chief executive of UKRI

The Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, Jo Johnson, has announced that Professor Sir Mark Walport will be the Chief Executive Designate of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

picture for blog



The full Government announcement is available here:

UKRI will, subject to legislation currently in Parliament, incorporate the seven Research Councils, Innovate UK and the research funding and knowledge exchange parts of HEFCE. It is anticipated that UKRI will be formed in April 2018.

Professor Philip Nelson, Chair of Research Councils UK, said: “Mark is a fantastic choice as the first Chief Executive of UKRI. His career has taken him through active research, leadership of high profile organisations and into government. This experience and his knowledge of how the research and innovation base and policy making works is unrivalled. I am confident Mark will ensure UKRI delivers on the potential of a more coordinated and strategic research and innovation system, with a stronger and clearer voice. Together with my colleagues across the Research Councils I look forward to working with him over the next year to establish UKRI and set it on a successful course.”

Dr Ruth McKernan, Chief Executive of Innovate UK said: “The creation of UK Research and Innovation is an unprecedented opportunity to fuse together world leading UK science with cutting edge innovation from British businesses. To make sure the new organisation delivers on that opportunity it will require the sort of strong leadership and expert knowledge that Sir Mark will bring to the role.

“His substantial experience will set UKRI up for success and the whole team at Innovate UK look forward to continuing to work closely with him to make sure that UKRI is fully prepared to address the scientific, economic and social challenges of the future.”

Professor Madeleine Atkins, HEFCE Chief Executive, said:

“We look forward to working with Sir Mark over the coming months in the period of transition to the creation of UK Research and Innovation. The HEFCE Chief Executive, Directors and staff will work with the new Chief Executive to ensure a smooth and efficient process in developing the UKRI and for transferring the relevant staff from HEFCE.

Sir Mark has tremendous experience of research in the public, charity and university sectors. He will bring this to bear on the creation and operation of this very important new public body which will deliver Government policy for science and innovation in the future.”

Detail on UKRI

Science, research and innovation are key strengths of the UK; vital underpinning elements of our economy and national wellbeing. The UK research and innovation system is world-leading, but there is an opportunity to make it even more effective. The purpose of Part 3 of the Higher Education and Research Bill is to put in place the legal powers and safeguards that will enable government to protect the UK’s status as a full-spectrum scientific power in the future. The proposals before parliament are to create UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), a strong, agile and joined up funder of research and innovation for the UK.

UKRI are implementing the recommendations of Nobel Prize winning scientist Sir Paul Nurse, who the government asked to lead a review of the UK’s research landscape. In his report, published in November 2015, Sir Paul called on government to “support the Research Councils to collectively make up more than the sum of their parts”, and develop a “smoother pathway to more applied research”.

Subject to the passage of the Higher Education and Research Bill through parliament, UKRI will include the 7 Research Councils, Innovate UK and the research and knowledge exchange functions of HEFCE. This will create a single strategic research and innovation funding body, which will build on and protect the strengths and values of the current system. UKRI will deliver a strengthened strategic approach to future challenges and a maximisation of the value and benefit from government’s investment of over £6 billion per annum in research and innovation. It will provide a greater focus on cross-cutting issues that are outside the core remits of the current funding bodies, such as multi- and inter-disciplinary research, enabling the system to respond rapidly and effectively to current and future challenges. It will be a strengthened, unified voice for the UK’s research and innovation funding system, facilitating the dialogue with government and partners on the global stage. Furthermore, it will create a smoother pathway for innovation, enabling improved collaboration between businesses and researchers and better alignment of research outputs with business needs.

Letter from Sir Mark Walport to partner organisations