Science Minister appoints new ESRC Executive Chair Designate and announces UKRI Innovation Champion

Science Minister appoints new ESRC Executive Chair Designate and announces UKRI Innovation Champion
  • Professor Jennifer Rubin appointed as ESRC Chief Executive and will become Executive Chair once UKRI is operational in 2018
  • Sir Harpal Kumar becomes UKRI Innovation Champion 
  • UKRI will play a key role in helping the UK strengthen its competitiveness as part of the new Industrial Strategy

Science Minister, Jo Johnson, has today (26 October 2017) announced that Professor Jennifer Rubin has been appointed Chief Executive and Executive Chair Designate of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Sir Harpal Kumar has also been chosen as the Innovation Champion of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). 

Professor Rubin will continue as Chief Executive until the end of March 2018 and, upon the creation of UKRI on 1 April, will become ESRC's Executive Chair.

Executive Chairs will be crucial to delivering UKRI's mission to maintain the UK’s global leadership in research and innovation. They will lead each of the nine councils that will be part of UKRI, and the role will combine the responsibilities of the current Chair and Chief Executive of each council.

Sir Harpal's appointment as the UKRI Innovation Champion is in addition to his role on the UKRI Board. As Innovation Champion he will promote innovation and business interests within UKRI and will sit on the Innovate UK Council.

Announcing these appointments, Science Minister Jo Johnson said:

“UKRI’s Executive Chairs will play a vital role in our Industrial Strategy by strengthening the UK’s global research competitiveness, and Professor Rubin’s wealth of experience ensures that she is well positioned to lead one of our councils through this transition.

“Along with Sir Harpal being made Innovation Champion, these appointments are key to ensuring UKRI is truly interdisciplinary, representing a broad range of research interests, while aligning our R&D sector more closely with business.”

Sir Mark Walport, UKRI Chief Executive Designate said:

“Professor Jennifer Rubin has a first class academic background in social science and public policy and is ideally placed to lead ESRC to support and champion economic and social sciences within UKRI. Sir Harpal Kumar will bring great experience from his time in business and his distinguished leadership of Cancer Research UK to ensure that the voice of innovation is at the heart of UKRI.”

Professor Jennifer Rubin said:

“Rigorous social science can be transformative. When brought to bear on pressing challenges from antimicrobial resistance to low productivity, excellent research can make a contribution to improving outcomes for people, communities and economies. I feel privileged to be asked to lead the ESRC in supporting and developing world-leading social science, as well as the skills and data to understand and address societal issues together with colleagues under the new umbrella of UKRI.”

Notes to editors

  1. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK’s largest funder of research on the social and economic questions facing us today. It supports the development and training of the UK’s future social scientists and also funds major studies that provide the infrastructure for research. ESRC-funded research informs policymakers and practitioners and helps make businesses, voluntary bodies and other organisations more effective. The ESRC also works collaboratively with six other UK research councils and Innovate UK to fund cross-disciplinary research and innovation addressing major societal challenges. The ESRC is an independent organisation, established by Royal Charter in 1965, and funded mainly by the Government.
  2. Executive Chairs will be crucial to the ambition for UKRI to be a world-leading research and innovation organisation. Each of the nine councils that will be part of UKRI will be led by an Executive Chair, a role combining the responsibilities of the current Chair and Chief Executive of each council.
  3. Operating across the whole of the UK and with a combined budget of more than £6 billion, UK Research and Innovation will bring together the seven research councils, Innovate UK and a new organisation, Research England. UK Research and Innovation will ensure that the UK maintains its world leadership in research and innovation, by creating a system that “best environment for research and innovation to flourish. It will come into existence on 1 April 2018.
  4. Professor Jennifer Rubin is currently Director of the Policy Institute at King’s and Professor of Public Policy. Before joining King’s Jennifer established and then led the justice and home affairs research programme at RAND Europe for ten years. She has served on RAND’s executive team most recently as Executive Vice President, helping to lead its quadrupling in size in Europe. Jennifer obtained her PhD at the University of Cambridge in social and political sciences at King’s College, following a first class degree in European Politics at Loughborough University. She has lectured in politics and psychology, published numerous peer-reviewed policy research reports and academic journal articles and been a visiting fellow at Harvard’s Center for European Studies.
  5. Sir Harpal has been Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK since 2007, having been Chief Operating Officer from 2004-2007 and Chief Executive of Cancer Research Technology (CRT) from 2002-2004. He joined CRT from Nexan Group, a venture capital-backed medical device company which Sir Harpal led as Chief Executive, having stepped down as Chief Executive of the Papworth Trust to found the business. His early career included a period working as a research scientist with the UK Atomic Energy Authority. Sir Harpal was Chair of the Taskforce and author of “Achieving World-Class Cancer Outcomes: A Strategy for England 2015-2020”, published in summer 2015. He is a Trustee of The Francis Crick Institute, a member of the National Cancer Transformation Board and chairs the National Cancer Advisory Group. He is also a member of the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy Advisory Board, and of the Mayor of London’s Brexit Advisory Group.