Press release

The stars align for science and tech as non-execs are appointed to the DSIT Start-Up Board

Tim Peake and Ron Dennis among seven science and tech leaders appointed to the new DSIT Start-Up Board.

Non-executive directors appointed
  • Tim Peake and Ron Dennis among 7 science and tech leaders appointed to the new Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) Start-Up Board, led by Shonnel Malani
  • these high profile appointments demonstrate the UK government’s seriousness to further the UK’s science and tech leadership and agenda
  • the Non-Exec appointments follow more than 10 weeks of announcements from the new department, with hundreds of millions of pounds of funding announced for innovation accelerators, life sciences and laboratories as well as announcing new Wireless, AI and Quantum Strategies

Astronaut Tim Peake and McLaren founder Ron Dennis are among the 7 leading figures from across the science and technology sectors, who have today (Saturday 22 April) been appointed as the first-ever members of the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) Board.

The 7 inaugural non-executive members of the DSIT Board are:

  • Shonnel Malani – Managing Partner at Advent International and Chair of the Board at Cobham and Ultra Electronics
  • Tim Peake CMG – former European Space Agency astronaut and British Army Air Corps Helicopter Pilot
  • Ron Dennis CBE – Founding Shareholder and former Chairman and CEO of the McLaren Technology Group Ltd, Chairman of Podium Analytics
  • Baroness Alison Wolf CBE – Professor at King’s College London, cross-bench House of Lords Peer and former government expert adviser on skills
  • Melissa Di Donato – former CEO of SUSE Software Solutions, iNED at JPMorgan Chase, Supervisory Board member of Porsche AG, Senior Advisor at Hg Capital
  • Saul Klein – co-founder and Managing Partner of Phoenix Court, home to LocalGlobe and Latitude, as well as co-founder of Seedcamp and ZINC
  • Professor Jason Chin FRS – Fellow in Natural Sciences at Trinity College, Cambridge, and Head, Centre for Chemical and Synthetic Biology at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology

The DSIT Board will also include:

As non-executive Board members, they will provide over-arching strategic guidance and insight, as the Department looks to put government resources and our private sector partners behind the UK’s mission for science, technology and innovation to drive economic growth, create jobs, and improve the lives of every Briton. They will serve for 9 months on an initial Start-Up Board that will nurture DSIT through its first year of existence, before a permanent Board is recruited in due course.

Their appointments are the latest milestone since DSIT was set up, in February, which has seen hundreds of millions of pounds worth of funding announced for schemes like the Life Sciences Innovative Manufacturing Fund and the Innovation Accelerators programme, as well as the unveiling of government strategies on AI, Quantum and Wireless Infrastructure.

Science and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan said:

I want to get the best and brightest minds from the worlds of science and technology at the heart of our decision-making in government at every level, from our policy teams all the way up to the Board, so that we are laser-focused on cementing the UK’s place as a science and technology superpower. The success of this department will be instrumental in in delivering long-term economic growth, one of the Prime Minister’s priorities.

The quality of these appointees speaks volumes about how seriously this government is taking policy delivery and successful collaboration in new innovative areas with the private and public sectors. This is a group of genuine pioneers and leaders, who will guide this Department with a level of knowledge and expertise the rest of the world will follow.

Shonnel Malani said:

Throughout my business career I’ve been an advocate for embracing and advancing technology, and now I can’t wait to support this exciting new Department deliver on its ambitious plan to cement the UK’s place as a science and technology superpower by 2030.

This agenda will help businesses and the economy to grow and drive the innovations that will transform lives up and down the country.

Tim Peake CMG said:

I’m very excited to be joining the board and helping support the UK in becoming a global leader in science and technology.

As a former test pilot and astronaut, who has taken part in more than 250 scientific experiments for the European Space Agency and international partners, I hope to bring a wealth of experience of how science, technology and innovation are critical to both learning and development.

This is part of my mission to inspire the next generation of science and technology professionals as the UK ramps up its ambitions to compete on a global stage.

Ron Dennis CBE said:

Having spent most of my commercial life immersed in a highly competitive industry, in which innovation and the application of science and technology is fundamental to success, it is my aim to bring what I can of my experience and focus in supporting this new and important government department.

I look forward to helping to effect a strategy for change for the future, bringing what I hope will be valuable insight and playing a positive role on the Board.

Baroness Alison Wolf CBE said:

I’m delighted and honoured to contribute to DSIT. The Department’s work will be absolutely critical to the future of science and technology in this country - and therefore to all our futures.

Melissa Di Donato said:

I am thrilled to be part of the Board for the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology.  Innovation has always been deep rooted in the successful history of Britain and I am looking forward to contributing to the further acceleration of economic growth and productivity. The Board will help to drive innovation and technology leadership that changes and improves British lives and promotes economic growth for the UK.

I am looking forward to driving an increased level of private investment in British technology further promoting the UK as the most innovative country in the world. With DSIT, we will make the UK the best place to start, develop and grow a technology business whilst developing and nurturing the most exciting talent.

Saul Klein said:

As someone who has worked in the tech sector both in the UK, Europe, Israel and the US over the last 25 years, I’m excited to be part of DSIT’s launch board. I am looking forward to supporting the Department in providing the best conditions for science and technology innovations to realise their full potential and to help address some of our greatest challenges across sustainable energy, healthcare and inequality.

Professor Jason Chin FRS said:

I am delighted to join the inaugural DSIT board. I look forward to helping the UK focus on driving key scientific discoveries and innovations to unlock new opportunities for growth and sustainability.

The non-executive Board Members will supplement the serious science expertise already present in DSIT, with the government’s new Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Dame Angela McLean, also forming a part of the Department’s executive team.

Ministers are determined to elevate the UK’s world leading science and tech skills at every level of policymaking. This announcement comes just days after the launch of DSIT’s push to bring the very best talent into the heart of UK science and tech policymaking, through a new secondment scheme. The Expert Exchange is bringing cutting-edge expertise from UK academia and industry directly into government, to foster ever-closer links between research and business communities and Whitehall.

The Science and Technology Framework challenges every part of government to better put the UK at the forefront of global science and technology, to deliver high-paid jobs of the future, grow the economy, and improve people’s lives.

While work continues to establish DSIT as a new ministerial department, the Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology is appointing 7 non-executive directors as members of DSIT’s start-up departmental board for a fixed period of 9 months. Permanent non-executive positions will be advertised through a fair and open competitive process in due course.

Notes to editors

The DSIT Departmental Board will consist of:

  • The Rt Hon Michelle Donelan MP, Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology (Chair)
  • George Freeman MP, Minister of State at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology
  • Julia Lopez MP, Minister of State at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology
  • Paul Scully MP, Parliamentary Under-secretary of State at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology
  • Viscount Camrose, Parliamentary Under-secretary of State at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology
  • Shonnel Malani – lead non-executive board member
  • Baroness Alison Wolf – non-executive board member
  • Melissa Di Donato – non-executive board member
  • Ron Dennis – non-executive board member
  • Saul Klein – non-executive board member
  • Tim Peake CMG – non-executive board member
  • Professor Jason Chin FRS – non-executive board member
  • Professor Dame Angela McLean DBE FRS – Government Chief Scientific Adviser
  • Sarah Munby – DSIT Permanent Secretary
  • Jo Shanmugalingam – DSIT Director-General: Science, Innovation and Growth
  • Susannah Storey – DSIT Director-General: Digital Technologies and Telecoms Group
  • Tim Sparrow – DSIT Chief Financial Officer
  • TBC (recruitment underway) – National Technology Adviser

More non-executive board members may be announced in due course.

Published 22 April 2023