Professor Chris Abell, the University's Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, corrects reporting of gift to the University and clarifies relationship between donors and academic research.

With regard to the Guardian report: Cambridge accepts £6m Shell donation for oil extraction research (5 November 2019), I would like to correct some misleading and inaccurate claims in this article.

It is disappointing that though we provided full facts to the Guardian regarding this gift, they have misrepresented the research as focused on 'oil extraction', which is simply not accurate.

The main focus of Professor Gladden’s proposed research related to the gift is to support the transition to a zero-carbon economy by improving chemical reactions in fuel cells, electrolyzers and making chemical processes for industrial use more sustainable.

This is one of many long-running programmes that is transitioning to a clean-energy focus, though retains some small and declining aspect related to extraction.

The article implies wrongly that donors have undue influence on the course of the research they fund. Academic freedom is a fundamental principle of the University, and no donor directs research that they fund - this is core to our mission, and our integrity. Any suggestion to the contrary is false.

Similarly, there were significant exclusions of evidence provided to the Guardian for this piece around the transparency we are committed to achieving and our consultative approach. It is important to note, for example, that a student campaign group, alongside Friends of the Earth, members of the University Council, Shell and the University’s Committee on Benefactions and External and Legal Affairs (CBELA) together discussed guidelines for philanthropic donations from the fossil fuel industry. This is in line with the University's approach to have a mature and considered debate on these issues, with all viewpoints represented.

The University of Cambridge is building on its existing research and launching an ambitious new environment and climate change initiative. Cambridge Zero is not just about developing greener technologies. It will harness the full power of the University’s research and policy expertise, developing solutions that work for our lives, our society and our biosphere.

Professor Chris Abell, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research.

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