Former head of energy giant approved as EPSRC chair

The former head of energy firm E.ON UK will become chair of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council after his appointment was approved by MPs.

March 9, 2012

Paul Golby’s four-year appointment to the EPSRC was backed in a report published today by MPs on the Science and Technology Committee.

The government had chosen him as its preferred candidate, leading to the standard pre-appointment hearing for a key public official.

The current EPSRC chair, Sir John Armitt, steps down at the end of this month.

Dr Golby was formerly chairman and chief executive of E.ON UK. He is currently chairman of EngineeringUK, as well as being chair of council and pro-chancellor of Aston University – where he took his undergraduate degree and PhD.

In their report, the Science and Technology Committee MPs note his engineering background and say their questioning “sought to explore how he would reach out to the other constituent parts of the EPSRC research community and whether he retained any feel for what it means to be a research scientist”.

They add: “We were also keen to determine Dr Golby’s understanding of recent difficulties experienced by the EPSRC in communicating their strategy to their research communities. We were reassured that Dr Golby understood the internal and external challenges facing the EPSRC and that he has the necessary skills to enable the research council to continue to deliver the highest quality of research activity.”

The EPSRC’s grant-in-aid from the government is over £800 million in 2011-12, “roughly three-quarters of which it disburses in the form of grants to institutions and individual researchers”, the MPs’ report notes.

They also state that the chair “is expected to be ‘flexible’ in his/her time commitment to the role, but generally the commitment is 24 days work per annum, with a salary of £16,430”.

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