Imperial College London

Sir Keith O'Nions appointed Director of new security research institute at Imperial College

Sir Keith

New role to bring together Imperial researchers to provide security solutions<em> - News release</em>

Imperial College London news release

For immediate release
Tuesday 22 July 2008

Sir Keith has been appointed Acting Rector from 1 January 2010 – for further details visit the Rector website.

Professor Chris Hankin is Acting Director of the Institute for Security Science and Technology.

Sir Keith O'Nions has been appointed to set up and develop a new Institute for Security Science and Technology at Imperial College London, it is announced today.

The aim of the new Institute will be to apply Imperial's leading edge science to develop new technologies for increased safety and security in society.

The Institute will seek to improve security across a range of scales, from protecting the individual to ensuring the security of whole populations. For example, its research will include ways to prevent identity theft and document fraud, as well as safeguarding transport infrastructure, energy supplies and communication networks.

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Under the leadership of Sir Keith, former Director General of Science and Innovation in the Government's Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, the Institute will bring together scientists and engineers at Imperial to develop novel ways of solving security problems in these areas.

Sir Keith said: "Individuals, communities, businesses and governments are facing new security challenges in many aspects of everyday life, due to advances in technology, globalisation and living in a more interconnected world.


Issues covered by the new Institute will include new technologies to prevent the forgery of important documents such as passports

"Imperial College has a large number of world-leading researchers whose work could be applied to these challenges, and I'm delighted, as first Director of the Institute for Security Science and Technology, to have the opportunity to work with them to identify new ways of using their skills to meet a real need in society."

Current research underway at Imperial that could be used to develop new technologies for safety and security includes:

  • Using unique 'fingerprints' formed by microscopic surface imperfections on all paper documents, plastic cards and packaging to prevent fraud and increase security for a range of items including passports, pharmaceutical packaging and credit cards.
  • Assessing and managing biosecurity risks, ranging from the deliberate release of biological agents and toxins, to the introduction of non-native species and agricultural pests to the environment.

Sir Keith's first task in his new role will be to analyse present and future threats to safety and security, to examine how science and technology is currently being used to tackle these threats, and to consider potential areas for technological development.

Sir Roy Anderson, Rector of Imperial College London, welcomed Sir Keith's appointment, saying: "Security and safety is at the top of everyone's agenda now more than ever before. Fundamental research carried out here at Imperial has the potential to be applied in diverse real-world applications to improve safety and security, and having Sir Keith here to drive this important initiative forward is great news for the College."


For more information please contact:

Danielle Reeves, Imperial College London Press Office,
Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 2198
Out-of-hours duty press officer: +44 (0)7803 886248

Notes to Editors:

1. About Sir Keith O'Nions

Sir Keith O'Nions was most recently Director General, Science and Innovation in the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. This followed his position as Chief Scientific Adviser at MOD from January 2000 to July 2004 and Director General, Science and Innovation and Chief Scientific Adviser in DTI from 2004 onwards.

He was born on 26 September 1944 attended the University of Nottingham and gained a PhD in Earth Sciences from the University of Alberta and became a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Oslo.

From 1971 to 1975 he was Demonstrator and then Lecturer in Geochemistry at University of Oxford. He became Professor of Geology at Columbia University in 1975, Royal Society Research Professor in Cambridge from 1979 and Head of Earth Sciences in Oxford in 1999.

Keith O'Nions has enjoyed extensive participation in a broad range of academic and technological committees. He became a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union in 1979, and a Member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters in 1980. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society (1983), Honorary Fellow of Indian Academy of Sciences (1998), Fellow Indian National Science Academy (2001), Honorary Fellow Royal Academy of Engineering (2005). He has received Honorary doctorates from a number of Universities.

He has been the chairman, or a member, of a number of Research Council committees over the last 25 years and a member of the Council of Science and Technology from 1998-2000. He was Trustee and Chairman of the Natural History Museum from 1996 to 2005. He received a Knighthood for services to Earth Sciences in the 1999 Queen's Birthday Honours.

2. About Imperial College London

Imperial College London - rated the world's fifth best university in the 2007 Times Higher Education Supplement University Rankings - is a science-based institution with a reputation for excellence in teaching and research that attracts 12,000 students and 6,000 staff of the highest international quality.

Innovative research at the College explores the interface between science, medicine, engineering and business, delivering practical solutions that improve quality of life and the environment - underpinned by a dynamic enterprise culture.


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