Executive Chair

Body: Medical Research Council (MRC)
Appointing Department: Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Sector: Science & Technology
Location: London and Swindon
Skills required: Change Management
Number of Vacancies: 1
Remuneration: The annual salary / remuneration package and detailed portfolio of responsibilities will be discussed with individual candidates depending on their skills and experience.
Time Requirements: 5 days per week. Applications are very welcome from those who wish to work part-time, in particular as part of a job-share arrangement, and those who wish to undertake the role on secondment from their current employer.


An announcement has been made on the outcome of this appointment.

Professor Fiona Watt FRS has been selected as the Government’s preferred candidate to be the Executive Chair of the Medical Research Council (MRC) when it becomes a constituent part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) in April 2018.

View Announcement

Campaign Timeline

  • Competition Launched


  • Closed for Applications


  • Panel Sift


  • Final Interview Date


  • Announcement



Assessment Panel

Vacancy Description

We are seeking an inspirational medical scientist with international standing and a proven track record to lead the Medical Research Council (MRC) as its Executive Chair, once it becomes one of the nine Councils of UK Research and Innovation in April 2018.

As part of UK Research and Innovation’s Executive Committee, the Executive Chair will have a critical role within UK Research and Innovation and in championing and increasing the impact of medical research.

The MRC’s Executive Chair may also be responsible for leading and delivering one or more cross cutting area for UK Research and Innovation, on behalf of all the Councils.

UK Research and Innovation

The creation of UK Research and Innovation represents the largest reform of the research and innovation funding landscape in the last 50 years. As a new, independent, non-departmental public body, it will bring together the functions of the seven Research Councils, Innovate UK, and the research and knowledge exchange functions of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) (to be known as Research England). The Higher Education and Research Act 2017 (HERA), which underpins these reforms, received Royal Assent on 27 April 2017.

The Medical Research Council:

The MRC works to improve the health of people in the UK and around the world by supporting excellent science, and training the very best scientists.

The heart of MRC’s mission is to improve human health through world-class medical research. To achieve this, it supports research across the biomedical spectrum, from fundamental lab-based science to clinical trials, and in all major disease areas.

As well as supporting inter- and cross-disciplinary work with the other research councils and Innovate UK, MRC works closely with medical research charities, the NHS and UK Government health bodies, including the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and gives a high priority to research that is likely to make a real difference to clinical practice and the health of the population.

In 2016/17 the MRC’s gross research expenditure (funded by the BIS budgetary allocation and contributions from other bodies) was around £756 million. It also employs around 2,000 domestic staff. At March 2015, it was supporting approximately 1,400 postgraduate students and 370 fellows in universities, medical schools and research institutes.

The MRC will be established as one of nine Councils within UK Research and Innovation in April 2018, with delegated autonomy and authority, and with an individual delegated budget set by the BEIS Secretary of State. The Executive Chair will continue to be responsible for funding decisions within the MRC’s subject matter remit and for the health of the discipline in the UK. The historic mission and objectives of the MRC will not change as a consequence of its incorporation within UK Research and Innovation. However, the MRC will benefit from the significantly enhanced capability that UK Research and Innovation will bring, in a context of rising budgets for research and innovation. This includes a single UK Research and Innovation strategic, analytic and corporate centre with capability and expertise benefitting from economy of scale; much increased flexibility in developing multidisciplinary activity and joint working between the Councils; and a stronger more joined up voice within government.

By the end of 2018, all MRC Units, including two in Africa, will have migrated into university unit partnerships with various UK universities. MRC will continue to lead, for UK Research and Innovation, on employment of around 1,700 scientists in 3 world famous institutes: The Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, the London Institute of Medical Sciences at Hammersmith Hospital, and the MRC Harwell.

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the Biotechnology and Biological Research Council (BBSRC), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Medical Research Council (MRC), the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)

Person Specification

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy wishes to attract the highest calibre of candidates for this role. The successful candidate will be able to command confidence and represent the MRC at the highest level of and be able to demonstrate the following:

Skills, Experience and Standing

  • A highly respected medical scientist of international standing with a proven track record;
  • An inspirational communicator able to command confidence and have credibility across both the academic domain of medical research and the broader stakeholder landscape;

Strategic Vision

  • An ability to develop, lead and manage a clear and strategic vision for medical research through the development of high quality, value for money programmes built on a thorough understanding of and engagement with the stakeholder landscape.
  • An ability to take a broad view of the MRC’s objectives and issues arising across the range of medical research sciences;
  • An ability to advise on major business developments which bring a significant change in the Council’s role or activities and on its exposure to and management of risk;

Leadership and Management

  • Proven leadership and management skills with a deep understanding and experience of change management and evidence of having successfully led cultural change and organisational development;
  • Experience of managing and building capability of a cadre of skilled employees and programme managers and able to inspire and motivate colleagues at all levels in the organisation.

Breadth of Understanding

  • In depth understanding of current developments in the full spectrum of the medical research landscape and other areas relevant to the work of the MRC; and
  • An ability to understand and demonstrate the highest standards of medical research and its wider relevance to and impact on the cultural, social and economic wellbeing of the country.

Additional Information

BEIS is committed to providing equal opportunities for all, irrespective of race, age, disability, gender, marital status, religion, sexual orientation, transgender and working patterns and to the principle of public appointments on merit with independent assessments, openness and transparency of process. Applications are welcome from all, especially women, minority ethnic and disabled candidates who are under-represented at this level in public life.

Applications are very welcome from those who wish to work part-time, in particular as part of a job-share arrangement, and those who wish to undertake the role on secondment from their current employer.

In order to ensure that UK Research and Innovation is made up of executives with the appropriate level of skills and experience, both UK nationals, and international candidates are encouraged to apply.

Sir Paul Nurse’s review of the UK Research Councils, available at:


The Government’s White Paper, ‘Success as a Knowledge Economy’ available at:


The Higher Education and Research Act, available at:


The Industrial Strategy Green Paper, available at:


How to Apply

The closing date for applications is 8 September, 2017.                        

Please submit the following documents by email to publicappointments@beis.gov.uk

  • A Covering Letter
  • A CV
  • Candidates Application Form

Please ensure that you include “Medical Research Council (MRC) Executive Chair” in the subject box.

Alternatively, you can send your application in hard copy to:

Public Appointments Team, 7th Floor, Spur 2, 1 Victoria Street, London, SW1H OET

Applicant packs can be provided in other formats upon request.

UKRI - Medical Research Council - Diversity monitoring form
Return to Search