Dr Diarmuid O’Brien

Dr Diarmuid O’Brien has been appointed as the University of Cambridge’s new Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Innovation. He is currently Chief Executive of Cambridge Enterprise, the University’s commercialisation arm which supports academics, researchers, staff and students in achieving knowledge transfer and research impact.

Dr O’Brien will take over from current Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor Andy Neely, whose term of office finishes at the end of February. Dr O’Brien, who has a PhD in Physics from the University of Sheffield and a degree in Materials Science from Trinity College Dublin, joined Cambridge Enterprise from Trinity College Dublin, where he was Chief Innovation Officer. At Cambridge Enterprise he has led a new strategy which has supported activities such as the establishment of Innovate Cambridge, the formation of Founders at the University of Cambridge, the integration and renewal of ideaSpace and the commencement of the Technology Investment Fund to support the development of University intellectual property.

“The University and the broader Cambridge ecosystem are recognised as being globally leading for innovation, enterprise and entrepreneurship,” said Dr O’Brien. “I have seen this first-hand from my role as Chief Executive of Cambridge Enterprise and in helping to establish Innovate Cambridge. I look forward to my new role as Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Innovation and continuing to enhance the ambition for how the University of Cambridge can enable impact from our research and through our innovation partnerships.”

He replaces Professor Andy Neely, who has served as Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Enterprise and Business Relations since March 2017, and received an OBE for services to University/Industry Collaboration in 2020. Professor Neely’s achievements as Pro-Vice-Chancellor included leading the University’s Recovery Programme helping the University respond to the coronavirus pandemic, overseeing the establishment of the Change and Programme Management Board, as well as building far stronger links with the local and regional innovation community through important initiatives such as Innovate Cambridge.

Professor Neely said: “I’m honoured to have served in this role for seven years and delighted that Diarmuid has been appointed as my successor. The University of Cambridge’s impact on the world is significantly enhanced by our engagement with business and our world-leading innovation ecosystem and I have no doubt that this will go from strength to strength under Diarmuid’s leadership”.

The University of Cambridge Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Prentice welcomed Dr O’Brien to the role and thanked Professor Neely for his service.

She said: “I warmly congratulate Diarmuid on being appointed to this important role. With his wealth of experience in driving innovation, most recently at Cambridge Enterprise, he will help ensure no momentum is lost in the handover from the previous Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Andy Neely.
“I would like to put on record my sincerest thanks to Andy for his service to Cambridge, both as an academic leader and as Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Enterprise and Business Relations. I know I speak on behalf of all University colleagues when I say how grateful we are for what he has achieved in that role over the past seven years.”

The Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Innovation is broadly the same role as the current Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Enterprise and Business Relations role, but with an enhanced focus on industry, enterprise and innovation.

Dr O’Brien takes up the role in April, and will remain in his current capacity at Cambridge Enterprise for one day a week to provide continuity and connection with Cambridge Enterprise.

There are five Pro-Vice-Chancellors at the University of Cambridge. Their role is to work in partnership with senior administrators to help drive strategy and policy development. The Pro-Vice-Chancellors also support the Vice-Chancellor in providing academic leadership to the University.

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