News story

John Kingman to lead creation of new £6 billion research and innovation body

Science Minister Jo Johnson has confirmed that John Kingman will be appointed as Chair of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

Science Minister Jo Johnson today (17 May 2016) confirmed that John Kingman will be appointed as Chair of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) on an interim basis, to set up the new organisation in shadow form.

Announced on Monday (16 May 2016) in the government’s higher education and research white paper Success as a Knowledge Economy, UKRI will be established as a single, strategic body that will bring together the 7 Research Councils, Innovate UK and the research funding from Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).

With a combined budget of more than £6 billion, UKRI will be a major voice for UK research and innovation in the UK and globally.

As part of his role, John Kingman will provide advice to ministers on the competition to quickly recruit a leading scientist to take the reins as UKRI Chief Executive and will work closely with the existing leaders of the Research Councils, Innovate UK and HEFCE.

Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said:

I am delighted that John has agreed to take on this role. As someone who has overseen 5 spending reviews which prioritised science, John is uniquely placed to set up this new organisation and understand how best to maximise the value of our investment in research and innovation for the economy and society.

John will now be working closely with the research and innovation communities to shape the new organisation and oversee a competition to recruit a leading scientist as the first chief executive.

The formation of UKRI will ensure the UK can lead the world in multi- and inter-disciplinary research, where some of the most exciting breakthroughs are happening. It will also provide a more strategic approach to addressing major global research and innovation challenges.

UKRI will also take on responsibility for the Research Excellence Framework (REF) working with the devolved administrations to deliver a UK-wide assessment of university research performance, and the associated university “block grant” for English universities - both currently managed by HEFCE.

The government asked Nobel Prize winning scientist Sir Paul Nurse to lead a review of the UK’s research landscape last year. 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’.

As second permanent secretary to the HM Treasury, Kingman was at the helm of the HM Treasury during successive administrations that prioritised investment in science and innovation. He was responsible for 5 science spending reviews. As announced in April 2016, he will leave the HM Treasury in July 2016.

Stakeholder comment

Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer said:

John Kingman will be an excellent Chair. Through his work at the Treasury he has been a powerful advocate for high-quality and well-funded science for over a decade. His appointment will ensure the new body gets the running start it needs, and I have no doubt he will listen to scientists and distil important issues to advance research.

Professor Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine, University of Oxford said:

John has been one of the greatest supporters of UK science for many years. He recognises the importance of the science base for the UK economy and also the importance of both basic and more translational science across multiple disciplines. I can think of few people better equipped than John to establish these new structures and ensure that they provide the right amount of strategic input without imposing administrative overload.

Lord Nicholas Stern, President of the British Academy said:

The proposed new organisation UK Research and Innovation will bring coherence and energy to research in the UK and is to be warmly welcomed. It can bring real traction to future research excellence frameworks (REFs). John Kingman will be a first class chair as it begins its work.

Sir Paul Nurse, Chief Executive of The Francis Crick Institute said:

John Kingman has been a friend and supporter of science over many years, and has great experience of how Whitehall operates. I have every confidence that he will ensure appropriate independence and objectivity for UKRI, help to put science more effectively at the heart of government, and secure and enhance the entire UK research endeavour.

Leszek Borysiewicz, Vice-Chancellor Cambridge University said:

I am pleased to congratulate John Kingman on his appointment. His background as one of the most experienced senior civil servants makes him ideally placed for this leading role at the interface of academia, science and industry. John is a champion of research and has demonstrated he understands the challenges the sector faces. I have confidence he will position Research Councils (RC) and Quality Related research (QR) funding for the benefit of the academic community.

Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society said:

We welcome the appointment of John Kingman as chair of UK Research and Innovation. In appointing him, the government have identified someone with an understanding and appreciation of the excellence of UK science and innovation and its contribution to the UK’s economy. He has long brought this insight to bear at the Treasury and we look forward to working with him to ensure that science’s voice is heard at the heart of government.

John Kingman

Until July 2016, John Kingman is Second Permanent Secretary (currently acting Permanent Secretary) to the HM Treasury. Over the course of his HM Treasury career John has had a sustained involvement in science and innovation funding and policy; in total he has worked on 5 Spending Reviews which prioritised science and innovation. In 2004, John personally led the then government’s 10 year framework for science and innovation. He has also been closely involved over many years in policy-making on R and D tax credits.

In addition to his HM Treasury career, John has worked in the Group Chief Executive’s office at BP, been a Lex columnist at the Financial Times and a Managing Director at Rothschild, the investment bank. He is a World Fellow of Yale University, a Trustee of the Royal Opera House and a member of the advisory committee for Jim O’Neill’s review on antimicrobial resistance.