He served as Founding Director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at Oxford University, 2008 -2012, Head of the Department of Chemistry at Cambridge University, 1993-2000, and Master of Downing College Cambridge 1995-2000.
He was the UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser, 2000-2007, the Foreign Secretary’s Special Representative on Climate Change, 2013-2017, and Chair of Future Cities Catapult, 2012-2016. He has travelled widely to persuade all countries to take action on climate change. He initiated an in-depth risk analysis approach to climate change, working with the Governments of China and India in particular, and initiated a collaborative program, now known as Mission Innovation, to create a £23bn pa research and development international exercise, which involves 22 countries and the EC, to deliver all technologies needed to complete the transition into a fossil-fuel-free world economy.
He was born in Durban, educated at St John’s College Johannesburg and at Witwatersrand University, graduating in Chemistry and a PhD in physical chemistry. He has received 23 Honorary Degrees from universities around the world.
As Govt Chief Scientific Adviser he raised the need for governments to act on climate change and was instrumental in creating the British £1 billion Energy Technologies Institute. He created an in-depth futures process that advised government on a wide range of long-term issues, from flooding to obesity. He was a Member of the President’s Advisory Council, Rwanda, and Science Advisor to UBS, 2008-12. He has published over 500 papers on surface science and catalysis and on science and policy, for which he has received many awards, medals, and 23 honorary degrees from universities around the world.
Elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1991; Foreign Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2002; knighted in 2003; made “Officier dans l’ordre national de la Légion d’Honeur” in 2009.