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Oxford professor named executive chair of STEM research council

Professor Charlotte Deane has been appointed Executive Chair of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) by Michelle Donelan, the Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology.

Professor Deane is currently Professor of Structural Bioinformatics in Oxford’s Department of Statistics and a Fellow of St Anne’s College. She leads the Oxford Protein Informatics Group (OPIG) and co-directs the Systems Approaches to Biomedical Research Centre for Doctoral Training, which she founded in 2009.

She will remain affiliated with the University through her continued leadership of OPIG after taking up her new role in January 2024. She will replace Professor Miles Padgett who has served as Interim Executive Chair of the council for the past six months.

Professor Deane said of her appointment: “I am excited to be chosen as Executive Chair of EPSRC. The opportunities for EPSRC research have never been greater from machine learning methodologies which touch practically every aspect of the economy and society, to quantum computing and advanced materials to the growing understanding of the importance of engineering and physical sciences techniques for solving challenges from climate change to future pandemics.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic Deane served on the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), and received an MBE in 2022 for services to COVID-19 research.

Professor Deane previously served as the Deputy Executive Chair of EPSRC, where she acted as the COVID-19 Response Director for UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), which oversees the EPSRC and various other research councils.

The EPSRC is responsible for leading and funding research into engineering and physical sciences, as well as ensuring the UK’s research and innovation capacity in this area remains sustainable. Many PhDs in STEM-related fields are funded through the council.

Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, Chief Executive of UKRI, commented: I am delighted to welcome Professor Charlotte Deane as EPSRC’s new Executive Chair. Charlotte is returning to UKRI, having played a key role during our response to COVID-19 as EPSRC’s Deputy Executive Chair. She brings with her a wealth of experience and an impressive track record as a leader in both academia and business.

“She will take on the leadership of EPSRC at a critical and exciting time, with the transformative potential for our economy, public services, and society from new technologies such as AI and quantum. As a core part of UKRI, EPSRC’s strategic investments can shorten the distance between discovery and prosperity, capturing the benefits for today, while catalysing the discoveries of tomorrow.”

Michelle Donelan said: “Professor Deane’s return to the Council as its Executive Chair is excellent news for the sector, bringing a strong record in driving pioneering research in business and academia and having spearheaded UKRI’s Covid response at a vital time for the UK.

From digital technologies to clean energy, manufacturing to mathematics, advanced materials to chemistry, EPSRC-led discoveries impact on all our lives and I look forward to working with Professor Deane to take forward the innovation that benefits the whole country.”