Professor Karen Holford, Chief Executive and Vice-Chancellor of Cranfield University is the new Chair of the Midlands Innovation Board.

She will act as Chair for the collaborative research and innovation partnership until 2025, working closely with board members and the core Midlands Innovation team to provide strategic leadership and direction on collaborative research priorities and opportunities for the region.

Karen steps into the role as the partnership plans to launch a new five-year strategy outlining high-level priorities to ensure the Midlands Innovation collaboration adds value for its people, place and partnership.

She was elected to Fellowship of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2015 and in 2016 was named as one of the 50 most influential women engineers in the UK. In 2017, Karen received a CBE for services to engineering and the advancement of women in engineering.

Professor Karen Holford said: “It is a fantastic time to be taking over as the new Chair for the Midlands Innovation Board as our partnership renews its research and innovation focus to respond to the biggest challenges impacting the wider Midlands region.

“Our partnership is uniquely placed to deliver activities that strengthen the region’s research and innovation ecosystem, by bringing together the collective strengths of eight research intensive universities distributed across the region.

“We have proven strengths in energy, health, social sciences, space and transport and a strong track record in collaborating in relation to enterprise, culture and infrastructure. As the research and innovation landscape evolves, we intend to respond by developing new themes where we can add value by combining our collective strengths.

“By championing our research and innovation capabilities, our region and our people we can help influence future prospects for the region. I am looking forward to working with my colleagues to help create more opportunities for the Midlands through our joint research and innovation projects, platforms and initiatives focusing on five overarching priorities: Place, People, Partnership, Policy and Projects.”

Dr Helen Turner, Director of Midlands Innovation said: “Thank you to Professor Trevor McMillan for acting as the Chair of the Board for the last two years. During that time we have welcomed several new board members from across the partnership and have worked together to develop Midlands Innovation’s future strategic priorities, paving the way for us to establish more collaborative research programmes that strengthen the R&D workforce, secure funding for new research platforms and generate new insights to inform decision-making and policy.

“Karen’s expertise and enthusiasm in advancing opportunities for women in engineering aligns with our values and several programmes of work to help build a more inclusive research and innovation ecosystem for our people across all levels and disciplines.

“I very much look forward to working with Karen, as the new Chair, the wider Board and the Executive Management Group to executive our new strategy, building on the impressive achievements of our partnership to date.”