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John O’Reilly becomes top civil servant for research and innovation

Former chief exec of EPSRC takes over from Adrian Smith at BIS

John O’Reilly, vice-chancellor of Cranfield University, has been appointed director general of knowledge and innovation at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

O’Reilly will start in February 2013, replacing Adrian Smith, who will become vice-chancellor at the University of London, a BIS statement said on 26 October.

The role of the knowledge and innovation group is essentially to safeguard the budget for research and provide broad oversight of policy in higher education. The director general works closely with BIS ministers, with the government’s chief scientific adviser, with the heads of funding councils and learned societies, as well as with ministers and officials from other departments.

O’Reilly was previously chief executive of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council for five years from 2001, before becoming vice-chancellor at Cranfield in 2006.

An engineer by training he has held academic posts at the University of Essex, University College of North Wales, and University College London where he was professor of telecommunications.

A former president of the Institution of Electrical Engineers (now the Institution of Engineering and Technology), O’Reilly is a fellow of the Council of the Royal Academy of Engineering and a specialist adviser to the UK Government and the European Commission.

He is also a fellow of the Council of the Royal Academy of Engineering, and was knighted in 2007 for his contributions to science.