Former Senior Vice President of the Royal Academy of Engineering Professor Sir William Wakeham FREng has been awarded one of the Academy’s highest accolades, the President’s Medal, in recognition of his extraordinary service to the Academy over two decades. He received the medal from Academy President Professor Dame Ann Dowling OM DBE FREng FRS at the Academy’s AGM in London on Tuesday 18 September.

Academy President Professor Dame Ann Dowling OM DBE FREng FRS, Professor Sir William Wakeham FREng and Academy Past President Sir John Parker GBE FREng, who nominated Sir William for the award.

The President’s Medal recognises significant contribution to the Academy’s aims and work through the recipient’s initiative in promoting excellence in engineering. Previous winners include top nuclear engineer Dame Sue Ion DBE FREng and Ian Shott CBE FREng, who led the development of the Academy’s Enterprise Hub.

Sir William was appointed Chair of the Academy’s International Committee in 2009 and used his international connections to reform and expand the Academy’s reach and influence overseas. The development of overseas programmes was so successful that the UK government selected the Academy as a delivery partner for its Newton Fund, resulting in a £28 million, seven-year cycle of international innovation and entrepreneurship programmes for the Academy.

He established excellent relationships with the Chinese Academy of Engineering, enabling a global partnership between the UK, US and Chinese national academies of engineering. The Academies have established a biennial event – the Global Grand Challenges Summit – bringing young people and leading engineers together to discuss how to solve the world’s most pressing problems. London will host the next event in this series in 2019.

Sir William spearheaded collaborations with India on distributed manufacturing, and with South Korea on entrepreneurship. He also led a reform of the governance of Euro-CASE, the federation of European academies of engineering and technology, to improve its effectiveness and strategic focus and put the organisation on a sound financial footing. He also strengthened links with the European Commission to bring Euro-CASE to the centre of the Commission’s Science Advice Mechanism.

As Senior Vice President, Sir William also reviewed the Academy’s own governance, comparing it with that of other academies and institutions in the UK and overseas to identify best practice. The outcome was the most substantial reform in the Academy’s 40-year history, leading to the disestablishment of the Council and creation of a Board of Trustees to replace it.

Academy President Professor Dame Ann Dowling OM DBE FREng FRS says: “Bill Wakeham has championed engineering and science education and entrepreneurship at the highest level. He has been both an invaluable supporter of the Academy and a champion of necessary organisational change. His vision, skill and sensitivity in helping us to achieve it successfully make him a worthy recipient of the President’s Medal.”

Notes for Editors

  1. William Wakeham was born in Bristol in 1944 and studied physics at Exeter University. After doing post-doctoral research at Brown University in Rhode Island, USA, he became a lecturer in Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London, where he became a Professor and then Head of Department. As Pro-Rector (Research), Deputy Rector and Pro-Rector (Resources), he oversaw Imperial College's merger with a series of medical schools and encouraged its developing entrepreneurial activities. He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 1997 in recognition of his world-leading research on transport properties of fluids and served as President of the Institution of Chemical Engineers in 2011.

    In 2001 he became Vice Chancellor of the University of Southampton before retiring in September 2009. He received a knighthood in the Queen's Birthday Honours 2009 for services to chemical engineering and higher education. He has conducted major education policy reviews for government, including The Review of UK Physics in 2008 and Review of STEM Degree Provision and Graduate Employability in 2016.
  2. The President’s Medal is awarded to an Academy Fellow who has contributed significantly to the organisation’s aims and work through their initiative in promoting excellence in engineering.
  3. Royal Academy of Engineering

    As the UK’s national academy for engineering and technology, we bring together the most successful and talented engineers from academia and business – our Fellows – to advance and promote excellence in engineering for the benefit of society.

We harness their experience and expertise to provide independent advice to government, to deliver programmes that help exceptional engineering researchers and innovators realise their potential, to engage the public with engineering and to provide leadership for the profession. 

We have three strategic priorities:

  • Make the UK the leading nation for engineering innovation and businesses
  • Address the engineering skills and diversity challenge
  • Position engineering at the heart of society

We bring together engineers, policy makers, entrepreneurs, business leaders, academics, educators and the public in pursuit of these goals.

Engineering is a global profession, so we work with partners across the world to advance engineering’s contribution to society on an international, as well as a national scale.

For more information

Siobhan Pipa at the Royal Academy of Engineering

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