Innovation agency gets first permanent chief exec in three years

Former Watchstone head Indro Mukerjee takes over from Ian Campbell
Photo: UKRI

Tech business leader Indro Mukerjee has been appointed to lead Innovate UK – the innovation agency’s first permanent chief executive in three years.

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng announced yesterday that Mukerjee would take over at the helm of the organisation from interim chief exec Ian Campbell with immediate effect.

Ian Campbell, Innovate UK's former former life-sciences director, was installed in the interim role shortly after its last permanent leader, Ruth McKernan, stepped down in April 2018.

The same month, it became a council of UK Research and Innovation – the umbrella public funding body for research. As part of UKRI, Innovate UK funds and supports the translation of research into commercially-viable technologies. 

The announcement from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, described Mukerjee as a “highly experienced technology executive and business leader with a track record of leading innovation and technology commercialisation at businesses of all sizes across the world – from publicly listed and multinational corporations to new venture and private equity backed technology companies”.

From 2015 to 2017, he was chief executive of Watchstone, an insurance outsourcer that was the focus of a Serious Fraud Office investigation, overseeing its recovery and then break-up.

He has also led venture capital-backed companies and spinouts including Plastic Logic plc, which develops plastic electronics, and C-MAC MicroTechnology Ltd, which manufactures electronics for harsh conditions in industries such as aviation, security and aerospace.

In a press release, BEIS said Mukerjee would be responsible for transforming Innovate UK “from a grant funding body to an agency focused on driving economic growth by working with companies to de-risk, enable and support innovation, while unleashing private sector investment into research and development”.

The same press release said that as well as distributing £2.5bn in grants since 2007, the agency has drummed up match funding from the private sector that had taken the value of projects above £4.3bn.

In that time, it has helped 8,500 organisations create around 70,000 jobs and added an estimated £18bn of value to the UK’s economy, it added.

Kwarteng said Mukerjee brings “impressive credentials having worked at the top tier of businesses of all sizes and across different industries”.

“I look forward to working closely with him at the helm of Innovate UK, which will be a crucial vehicle in accelerating business-led innovation and technology, driving economic growth, creating high-value jobs and cementing the UK’s status as a science superpower,” he said.

Mukeerjee said he has had a "strong personal passion for the journey from scientific discovery through to innovation and ultimately commercialisation of technology" throughout his career.

“I have seen that journey at first hand across many settings, industries, countries and types of business. I will use this experience as I lead Innovate UK and work with the secretary of state to deliver the government’s innovation strategy,” he said.

The appointment follows a “comprehensive and open recruitment process”, BEIS said.

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