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Professor Fiona Watt new Executive Chair of the MRC

3 Apr 2018

As the MRC becomes a constituent part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) we welcome Professor Fiona Watt FRS as the Executive Chair of the MRC.

Professor Watt is also Director of the Centre for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine at King’s College London where she leads a team of 80 academic researchers. Internationally recognised in her field, she has expertise in the stem cells of healthy and diseased skin.

Before founding the Centre for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine, she helped to establish the CRUK Cambridge Research Institute and the Wellcome Trust Centre for Stem Cell Research.

Commenting on her appointment, Professor Watt said: “I am very excited at the prospect of helping to shape the UK biomedical research landscape at this time of extraordinary transition. The widespread recognition that academic research has an important role to play in the UK economy, a real increase in the research budget, and the opportunity for collaborative working across the different research councils offer remarkable opportunities.

“We need to support and encourage excellence while counteracting the belief amongst researchers that a science career is simply an unremitting series of rejections. It is also essential to support research at interfaces between fields that have not intersected previously, facilitating creativity while avoiding the temptation to micro-manage.

“I believe that we are failing to attract bright students from disadvantaged backgrounds into research, and will be working hard to address this. In addition, we urgently need to find ways to support clinician scientists in combining their research activity with their clinical workload. As Executive Chair of the MRC my aspiration is that the UK should provide the best medical research environment in the world, with superb facilities and creative funding to support excellence throughout the country.”

Executive Chairs will be crucial to delivering UKRI’s mission to maintain the UK’s global leadership in research and innovation. They will lead each of the nine councils that are part of UKRI.

Our previous Chief Executive, Sir John Savill, stepped down from his role at the end of March. He reflects back on his seven and a half years at the helm of the MRC on our Insight blog.

Read about the eight other Executive Chairs of UKRI on their website.

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