'The arts and humanities are strong contributors commercially'

May 20, 2005

Philip Esler, head of the Arts and Humanities Research Council, is keen to focus on knowledge transfer

It may be too early for detailed plans from Philip Esler, but one likely priority for the new head of the Arts and Humanities Research Council will be the transfer of academic ideas into practical applications.

The Australian academic ex-lawyer, currently professor of biblical criticism at St Andrews University, takes up the post in September. He is keen to focus on knowledge transfer - an area in which he was heavily involved as vice-principal for research at St Andrews.

"It's an area where traditional science has done most of the running, but the potential in the arts and humanities is gigantic. The arts and humanities are very strong contributors culturally and commercially," he said.

The UK has a rich pool of arts and humanities researchers, Professor Esler said. "About 12,000 in the arts and humanities were submitted in the last round of the research assessment exercise and roughly 7,000 were in 5 or 5* departments. That's an incredibly powerful resource for a nation to have.

Our organisation is charged with helping those people do their research and contribute to the economic and cultural vitality of the UK."

His career as a lawyer specialising in intellectual property in Sydney for ten years will also stand the AHRC in good stead. "I had a lot of engagement with business people in the past. I think that experience is valuable."

Professor Esler is a Roman Catholic, but his research, which he hopes to continue while in post, is interdenominational.

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