At university in New Zealand, Michael Kelly’s tutors said he had the potential to be a successful Kiwi academic. They told him to study hard, then go to Cambridge, England, or Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Professor Kelly never became a New Zealand academic. But he is now at both Cambridge, England, and Cambridge, Massachusetts, having just been appointed UK executive director of the Cambridge MIT Institute.
The CMI was launched in 1999 with £68 million from the UK government and a brief to improve the UK’s competitiveness, productivity and entrepreneurship. There were immediate accusations of government favouritism and fears for its academic freedom. Then came talk of a transatlantic culture clash and questions about how the money was being spent.
Professor Kelly, 53, comes with a strong public relations background and a plan. “I’m not going to hide our light under a bushel,Ó he insisted. He said the CMI had plenty to be proud of although dramatic achievements would not come overnight.
Professor Kelly is a fellow of the Royal Society and vice-president of the Institute of Physics. He has split his career between industry and academia - he holds 13 patents and he developed the cruise-control radar used in Fiat, Jaguar and BMW cars.
Before coming to Cambridge University this year as Prince Philip professor of technology, Professor Kelly spent ten years at Surrey University, where he was head of the school of electronics, computing and mathematics. He worked at GEC developing new-generation microwave devices after spending ten years at Cambridge.
His counterpart at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is Edward Crawley, professor of aeronautics and astronautics. The engineers will replace materials scientists Alan Windle (UK) and John Vande Sande (MIT). They bowed out of the part-time chief executive roles saying they wanted to return to research full time.