Press release

Science and small business given a voice inside government

Professor Timothy Dafforn and Simon Devonshire to bring their expertise into the heart of Whitehall as entrepreneurs-in-residence.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


An international ‘start-up’ expert and a life sciences professor will bring their expertise into the heart of Whitehall as entrepreneurs-in-residence at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

Skills and Enterprise Minister Matthew Hancock today (3 July 2014) welcomes the pair who will focus on life sciences and helping small businesses grow during their year-long tenure.

Professor Timothy Dafforn and Simon Devonshire will be unveiled by the Minister at the Federation of Small Business summit in Liverpool.

At the summit he will outline government’s wider commitment to supporting British small business. He will explain that the new GREATbusiness website will be a single portal for small firms to find the support schemes that match their needs with the help of a diagnostic tool and what government is doing through the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill to help businesses start up and scale up.

  • Professor Timothy Dafforn will work with BIS on the exciting new industry of synthetic biology, which is believed to have huge potential for the life sciences and energy sectors. He combines his career as a scientist with entrepreneurship and has founded 2 tech spin-out companies. He brings extensive valuable experience to his new role, not least through his work as the Director of Knowledge Transfer, Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Birmingham.
  • Simon Devonshire will be the new ‘scale-up’ entrepreneur, advising BIS on how to help small businesses achieve the growth and exports we all want to see. Simon is director of Wayra Europe, which hothouses new digital start-ups. He has also co-founded 6 start-ups, 3 of which now have multi-million pound revenues. He is also a co-founder of The One Foundation, which through its product One Water has donated over £10 million to funding water wells across Africa.

Skills and Enterprise Minister Matthew Hancock said:

Both Simon and Timothy bring a range of experience and knowledge of the needs of small businesses. It is that expertise that we are bringing into the department to make sure that this country is the best place for a business to start up, scale up and thrive.

Small businesses, be they in specific industries like life sciences or established at a kitchen table, are the foundation of our economy and create sustainable growth and much needed jobs.

Professor Timothy Dafforn said:

I am very excited about being entrepreneur-in-residence for synthetic biology. It comes at a particularly interesting time in the development of synthetic biology which has the possibility to solve a number of challenges that face the world. I hope that over the next year I can help catalyse these developments.

Over the year I will draw together government, industry and academics to catalyse the development of new opportunities based on synthetic biology. New technology often results from a close interaction between the academic science base, industry and government.

Simon Devonshire said:

The UK is right at the heart of the global digital economy, with more start-ups, more engaged investors and a more active eco-system than anywhere else in Europe. Entrepreneurs in the UK have transformed the country’s economic landscape and outlook. I am delighted to be the entrepreneur-in-residence at the Department for Business to help enterprises fulfil their potential and compete in the global economy. I am looking forward to working with the UK government to put the policies in place that reinforce the UK as a powerhouse of entrepreneurship and to drive further growth.

The 2 candidates have been chosen for their innovative approach in the business and education, life sciences and energy sectors. Their leadership will encourage businesses to ‘scale-up’ and to realise the huge potential in synthetic biology. Both appointees have a legacy in education, innovation and enterprise, and will create a collaborative approach to new business models through government.

The UK is a great place to set up a business and more people than ever are beginning new enterprises. The government is backing business every step of the way and introducing legislation to help make the UK the most attractive place to start, finance and grow a business. The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill will help to build a stronger and fairer economy by supporting small businesses as they compete, and ensure they are not disadvantaged by those that do not play by the rules. It will foster and back the entrepreneurial spirit and build on the UK’s reputation as a fair and trusted place to do business. The Bill sets out measures to help hard working people have confidence in their employers and reduce the barriers that can hold businesses back from growth.

Notes to editors:

  1. The entrepreneurs-in-residence were selected through a competitive process from a very strong field by a panel of senior civil servants at BIS. There are 3 primary functions:
    • to act as a consultant and provide expert advice to BIS and other government departments
    • to work with policy teams across BIS and/or other departments to deliver specific projects or programmes
    • to be ambassadors for BIS and other government departments, using social media and events to publicise schemes, opportunities and initiatives available to small and medium-sized firms
  2. The entrepreneurs-in-residence are expected to commit between 1 and 2 days a week, up to a maximum of 46 days the year. The department will provide an honorarium and travel and expenses in accordance with civil service guidelines. The honorarium will be paid on a pro rata basis up to £10,000. Appointments will last for up to 1 year.
  3. Professor Timothy Daffron works as the Director of Knowledge Transfer, Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Birmingham. In 2003 he founded Dioptica Scientific Ltd (DSL) to manufacture and sell a new optical component that provided novel insights into the fundamental structures of molecules. In 2011 he founded Linear Diagnostics Ltd based on the discovery of a new synthetic biology reagent that could be used for pathogen detection.
  4. Simon Devonshire is the Director of Wayra, the business accelerator that belongs to Telefonica. Wayra is now the biggest incubator of digital start-ups in Europe. Simon has considerable commercial experience and has worked across an incredibly diverse range of businesses and industries. Formerly a professional marketing practitioner, Simon has a significant wealth of both ‘consumer’ and ‘B2B’ marketing experience across a diverse range of leading household brands such as O2; Post Office; HJ Heinz; Thomas Cook; Ryvita; Total; Spillers; Yell; Virgin and One Water.
Published 3 July 2014