Sir Michael Uren: 1923 – 2019


Sir Michael Uren

Sir Michael Uren

Distinguished engineer, philanthropist and businessman Sir Michael Uren has died aged 95.

Sir Michael passed away peacefully on Friday 9 August.

I hope that he would be very proud of what we have accomplished together, and all that we will achieve in his name in the future Professor Alice Gast President of Imperial

A proud Imperial alumnus (Mechanical Engineering and Motive Power, 1943), Sir Michael is the most generous benefactor in the College’s history.

His philanthropy includes a £40 million gift to create the Sir Michael Uren Biomedical Engineering Research Hub at Imperial’s White City Campus, among other very significant support for medical research.

Professor Alice Gast, President of Imperial College London said: “Sir Michael was an extraordinary man. It has been an honour to get to know him in recent years.

Sir Michael Uren at the groundbreaking
Sir Michael Uren at the groundbreaking of the building that will bear his name at White CIty

“His legacy will live on in perpetuity through his vision for, and generous support of many world-leading research programmes at Imperial. The Sir Michael Uren Biomedical Engineering Research Hub, made possible only through his remarkable gift, will stand as a testament to his vision and generosity. 

"A proud alumnus of Imperial, he was an instrumental partner in the College’s mission of excellence in research and education. His support is leading to new discoveries and treatments that will improve patient care for generations to come.  I know that he would be very proud of what we have accomplished together, and all that will be achieved in his name in the future. My thoughts remain with his family and loved ones.”

Sir Michael Uren's name on the City and Guilds Register
Sir Michael Uren's name on the City and Guilds Register

Illustrious career

Undergraduate students guarding Buckingham Palace
Imperial undergraduate students guarding Buckingham Palace. Sir Michael was one of hundreds of Imperial students and alumni to serve in the war.

Having graduated from Imperial in 1943, Sir Michael joined the Royal Navy that same year, training at the Royal Navy Engineering College for combined Marine and Air Operations. He was commissioned as Air Engineer Officer, Fleet Air Arm, serving in various squadrons until the end of the War.

After he left the Navy in 1946, Sir Michael held various civilian engineering roles, working on projects ranging from the development of water tunnels in the Pennines to building dams in Scotland and New Zealand. 

Sir Michael went on to found Civil and Marine Ltd and built it into one of the UK’s foremost innovators in cement manufacture. The company pioneered the use of blast furnace slag – an industrial waste product – to manufacture a new kind of cement with 90% less carbon emissions than traditional methods.

Sir Michael Uren This operation was enormously successful – eventually taking 17% of the UK cement market –  and Sir Michael continued to run the company until 2006, when aged 84 he turned his attention to charitable causes.

He was one of the UK's most generous philanthropists, supporting causes spanning medical research, education, the armed forces and the conservation of wildlife. His previous support for Imperial includes the College's MSk Lab under the leadership of Professor Justin Cobb, whose focus is joint disease and the surgery needed to restore function.

Sir Michael was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1999 and was knighted in the 2016 New Year Honours for philanthropic services.

The Sir Michael Uren Biomedical Engineering Research Hub, which is due to open in 2020, building will bring together over 500 engineers, clinicians and scientists to develop new and affordable medical technologies. They will combine the latest medical research and engineering to improve the treatment and diagnosis of diverse medical conditions, from finding ways to cure dementia to creating bionic limbs.

The Sir Michael Uren Biomedical Engineering Research Hub
The Sir Michael Uren Biomedical Engineering Research Hub, which is due to complete next year.

Speaking in 2014, Sir Michael Uren said: "It is an honour for me to be able to help this great university. Medical teaching and research didn't exist at Imperial in my day, but it has evolved into an institution where the work between engineering and medicine is today one of its outstanding strengths. Imperial has always applied academic excellence for the greater good, and I am thrilled by the prospect of this Biomedical Engineering Hub doing exactly that. 

City and Guilds Building
Imperial's City and Guilds Building as it would have looked during Sir Michael's student days

"What I find so exciting about this project is that here is Imperial building one of the biggest research centres in the world within a few miles of the City of London, which itself has become the biggest financial centre in the world today.  By putting the two together, what is quite clear is that the investment world will be watching for, and waiting for, the research and inventions which will create tomorrow's great companies.

"It seems to me that, in effect, what we are creating here is a new Silicon Valley London, which is bound to succeed.  Imperial was inspirational when I first joined it as a young engineering student in 1940, when London was under attack every night, and it is inspirational today.  May it continue to be so forever."

Sir Michael Uren with Professor Alice Gast
Sir Michael Uren with Professor Alice Gast


Deborah Evanson

Deborah Evanson
Communications Division

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