Former Rolls Royce tech boss named national technology adviser

Dave Smith takes on "influential role critical to ensuring the UK can realise the benefits of new technologies"
Dr Dave Smith

A former tech chief at Rolls-Royce has been named the UK’s next national technology adviser.

Dr Dave Smith will take up the post vacated by Sir Patrick Vallance in April. Vallance took on the job when he was named government chief scientific adviser in 2018, and Smith’s appointment sees the return of national technology adviser as a standalone role.

Smith will advise technology secretary Michelle Donelan on how best to build the UK’s technology strengths; champion the science and tech industries; and build and draw on networks across industry and academia to assist in policymaking.

Smith spent five years as director of central technology at engineering giant Rolls-Royce – to which the civil service is often compared – and is now chair of the board of trustees at the Simon Says child bereavement-support charity.

He was previously managing director for Europe at Ricardo, a sustainable-energy consultancy; group head of technology for PA Consulting; and managing director of Roke, which conducts R&D in areas including communications, artificial intelligence and data science.

As technology adviser, Smith will report to Department for Science, Innovation and Technology permanent secretary Sarah Munby.

An advert for the position posted in April called for candidates with “a fantastic network across a combination of science, technology and digital arenas”, deep experience of innovation and technology development in a relevant industry and “a first-class reputation in technology demonstrated by high-status international recognition”. 

"The national technology adviser is a high-profile and influential role critical to ensuring the UK can realise the benefits of new technologies to boost the economy, ensure national security and tackle the greatest challenges of the day," the ad for the £135,000-a-year job said.

Donelan said Smith’s “work and visionary leadership will no doubt propel us towards our goal of becoming a global tech superpower by 2030”.

“The Department for Science, Innovation, and Technology has a clear mission: to ignite innovation that enriches our economy, elevates our public services, and strengthens our national security,” she said.

“Dave Smith’s appointment sends a firm message: we are committed to bringing the brightest tech minds to government, and working hand-in-glove with industry to make the most of what tech has to offer.”

Smith said he was “deeply honoured” to take on the role. 

“Throughout my career, I’ve consistently advocated for the transformative power of technology and innovation to redefine societies,” he said.

“I’m delighted to have the opportunity to harness the growing potential of the British tech sector to drive growth and tackle society’s biggest challenges. Building upon the significant foundations laid by Sir Patrick Vallance, I’m eager to ensure the UK’s continued leadership and position as a global tech superpower.”

The prime minister, Rishi Sunak, said Smith brings “expertise and vision to this vital role”.

“We share the ambition of forging a better Britain and growing the economy through technology – and with Dave at the helm, we will champion the dynamism of the tech sector so that it can continue to thrive, attracting top talent, boosting innovation and cementing our place as a global science and technology superpower by 2030,” he said.

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