Robin Inskip, 2nd Viscount Caldecote, was an engineer and industrialist who campaigned tirelessly for the regeneration of British industry, championing innovation and competitive product development. When he became Chairman of Investors in Industry (now 3i) he denounced Britain as being in the “third division of the league of industrialised nations”. He wanted to see more engineers on the boards of British companies to enable new product development and he used his presidency of the Academy to encourage excellence in engineering. As a member of the House of Lords for over 40 years, he spoke regularly on industry, education and the environment.
He negotiated with the government and Vickers Armstrong to form BAC in 1959, but in 1965 clashed with the government when Secretary of State Dennis Healey cancelled the TSH2 tactical bomber/reconnaissance aircraft that the new company had designed and built. Caldecote warned the government that, unless it supported long-term development, the British aircraft industry would succumb to competition from the US. He was equally critical of the Thatcher government 25 years later, chairing a House of Lords report that Britain’s industrial base was so badly damaged that huge foreign investment would be required to sustain it.
Caldecote believed that business people had an active duty to society and served on countless public bodies, including the General Council of the BBC and the Marie Rose Trust. He chaired many government and industry bodies including the Design Council (1972-80) and the Export Council for Europe. He was also President of the Royal Institute of Naval Architects.
1917 Born 8 October in London
Educated at Eton
1939 Graduates from Kings College, Cambridge, with a first in engineering
1939 Commissioned in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and serves throughout World War 2 in minesweepers and destroyers, becoming a lieutenant commander
1941 Receives the DSC for his role aboard the destroyer Kingston during the evacuation of the British Army from Greece
1947 Succeeds his father, the first Viscount Caldecote, and takes his seat in the House of Lords as a Conservative
1949 Returns to Cambridge as an engineering lecturer and later becomes a director of English Electric
1960 Managing Director, English Electric Aviation
1961 Deputy Managing Director of the new British Aircraft Corporation
1969 Resigns from English Electric in protest at its merger with GEC
1972 Chairman of the Delta Metal Co.
1976 Pro-Chancellor, Cranfield Institute of Technology
1977 Chairman, Legal & General
1980 Chairman of Investors in Industry (now 3i)
1981 President of the Royal Academy of Engineering
1987 Knighted for services to industry
1990 Chairman of the Crown Appointments Committee that recommended Dr George Carey as Archbishop of Canterbury
1999 Dies 20 September aged 81