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Ottoline Leyser announced as new CEO at UK Research and Innovation

26.5.2020 | Eminent plant biologist and long-time science policy advisor will take over from Prof Sir Mark Walport.
Prof. Ottoline Leyser
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(© Ottoline Leyser)

Prof. Ottoline Leyser

One of the biggest players in research funding in the United Kingdom will see a change of leadership at the end of June. UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) administers research and innovative business funding from the science budget of the UK government, and since September 2019 it has been known that its current Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport, intended to retire in 2020. On May 14th it was announced that Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser FRS, an AcademiaNet member, will succeed him.

Prof Leyser is currently Professor of Plant Development at the University of Cambridge and the director of the Sainsbury Laboratory there, based in the Cambridge University Botanic Garden. Her work is focused on understanding plant hormones and the role they play in development, trying to answer questions about why some shoots produce branches and others do not, and what effect environmental input has on that decision-making. Though her career began at the University of Cambridge, where she received both her BA and her PhD, she has also held positions at both Indiana University and the University of York.

The appointment comes after more than a decade of accolades, such as the Royal Society Rosalind Franklin Award in 2007, the UK Genetics Society Medal in 2016 and the EMBO Women in Science Award in 2017. But outside academia she has also committed herself to science policy: She currently chairs the Royal Society’s expert advisory committee on science policy and she serves on the Council for Science and Technology, which advises the UK Prime Minister. This contribution was recognized when she was made Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) not only for services to plant science, but for science in society and equality and diversity in science.

Prof Leyser has said in a press release that she has seen first-hand the power of collaborative cultures to create solutions, and that she is looking forward to working with the UKRI team to pioneer new partnerships, develop innovative funding models and strengthen international collaboration. In particular, she will direct the delivery of the UK government’s ambition to increase investment in R&D to 2.4% of GDP by 2027.

  (© AcademiaNet)

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