Professor Iain Gillespie appointed Principal & Vice-Chancellor of the University of Dundee

25th August 2020

Professor Iain Gillespie has been appointed Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Dundee, and will take up the post from January 1, 2021.

Professor Gillespie is currently Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Research and Enterprise, at the University of Leicester, a post he has held since January 2016.

“We are delighted to appoint Iain as our new Principal and Vice-Chancellor,” said Ronnie Bowie, Chair of Court, the University of Dundee’s governing body.

“There are many challenges for the higher education sector and addressing those will require strong leadership and vision for how universities like Dundee can continue to offer an excellent student experience with gold-standard teaching and deliver research that has an impact across society. We are confident that Iain will bring those qualities to the role.

“I must also give great thanks to Professor David Maguire, our Interim Principal and Vice-Chancellor, who joined us in February in circumstances which would have been difficult at any time but which, because of the Covid pandemic, immediately became much more so. David has not only led the University with a quiet, confident assurance but has done so with a warmth and humanity that has been greatly appreciated by all in our community. I am delighted that David will continue in post until the end of this year.”

Professor Gillespie said, “Dundee is an incredible University at the heart of an incredible city. Its students and staff lead the world in so much and show us what a truly great university, firmly anchored in its community, can achieve.

“With the Covid pandemic, and all of its repercussions on our economy and society, we have never needed our universities to lead the creation of opportunity more than we do right now. Dundee is hungry to meet the challenges we face and to deliver on our current and future needs. For me, having the opportunity to lead the Dundee community, in collaboration with the city and our partners in business and beyond, to deliver on the exceptional values, spirit and determination of our students and staff is the most exciting and humbling prospect I can imagine.”

During his time at Leicester, Professor Gillespie has overseen significant change in the ambition for research and enterprise. Competitively won research awards doubled, Leicester became one of only three UK research-intensive universities awarded the accolade of “outstanding” for their Global Challenge Research Strategy and topped the 2020 Times Higher Global Impact rankings for the UN Sustainable Development Indicator “Life on Land”.

More recently, Leicester has been a leading university responding to the research challenges associated with Covid-19. Working with local, regional and national government as well as the private sector, Professor Gillespie led the development of the £100million Space Park Leicester, due to open in early 2021, and has played a prominent role in the pan-regional Midlands Engine, championing innovation and enterprise opportunities in a region of 11million people.

Before taking his current role at Leicester, Professor Gillespie was Director of Science and Innovation at the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the UK’s leading funder for environmental science, and was lead director across the seven UK research councils for international research, and was Visiting Professor in innovation in the life sciences at the University of Edinburgh.

Professor Gillespie spent 10 years at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Paris-based think tank, leading work on science, technology and innovation, with a particular focus on the Bioeconomy – a concept which he developed in the early 2000s – and on shaking up global policy on development of medicines for neglected and emerging diseases.

He spent more than a decade in UK central government, with science-based roles in the Cabinet Office, and the Departments of Environment, of Trade and Industry and of Health. Highlights included developing the regulatory framework for the control of GMOs, supporting the late Lord May, Chief Scientific Advisor, in introducing guidance on the use of scientific advice in policy making and on the impacts of climate change – providing the basis for the UK’s continuing strong stance – and then working with Tony Blair, as Prime Minister, to increase investment by the global pharmaceutical industry in the UK. He has had considerable engagement at UN and regional international level as well as in UK domestic policy and enterprise relations.

Professor Gillespie was born and raised in Edinburgh and holds degrees in Microbiology (BSc, PhD Edinburgh), International Relations and European Politics (MA, Kent) and Business Administration (MBA, Open). He is a Founding Trustee of the UK’s Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and a member of Genome Canada’s Science and Industry Advisory Committee. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology.

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