Met Office chief Rob Varley on a new supercomputer, transformation – and a breakfast-free Christmas

Written by Civil Service World on 15 December 2016 in Interview

With the end of 2016 fast approaching, we asked the UK's top officials to look back at the year, outline their goals for 2017 – and shed some light on their festive favourites. Rob Varley, chief executive of the Met Office, takes part in our annual perm secs round-up...

What was your highlight of 2016?
The Met Office's new supercomputer was installed on time and on budget, and is on track to deliver £2bn of economic benefit to the UK over the next five years. This major investment will keep the UK at the forefront of weather and climate science, at a time when environmental risk is becoming a major concern around the world.

What has been the most significant change in your organisation this year?
The Met Office's expertise has increasingly been called upon in support of the government's international policy objectives. Working with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Department for International Development, this has led to exciting new projects in Asia, Africa and South America. We've built strong partnerships with UK and in-country institutions in science and capacity building. 

What will be the biggest challenge of 2017 – and how are you preparing to meet it?
The challenge is how to meet a growing demand with limited resources. In response, we have launched a major new programme of Transformation and Efficiency. Over the next five years this will transform our infrastructure and processes to deliver a step enhancement in capability and capacity, while reducing core costs. 

What was the best Christmas present that you’ve ever given or received? And the worst?
My eldest daughter was born in December – so the best present ever for me was becoming a dad for the first time. I don't recall any really bad presents, but I do remember one year spending Christmas Eve in a hotel after a very long drive through snowy weather. We woke on Christmas morning to find there were no kitchen staff, so we had to face Christmas without breakfast. I won't name the hotel...! 

More: Perm secs round-up 2016 – Britain's top civil servants review the year and look ahead to 2017

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