For Staff

Professor Philip Kocienski's generous donation to support research - April 2010

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One of the most significant donations the University has ever received has been made by a member of our own staff.

Professor of organic chemistry Philip Kocienski came to Leeds in 1976 after graduating from Northeastern and Brown⁞ universities. He took a chair at Southampton and was regius professor at Glasgow before returning to Leeds in 2000.

His outstanding research achievements, which include developing new ways of synthesising 'biologically active' natural products, have been exploited for a range of industrial processes, and he is much in demand as a consultant.

Professor Kocienski chose to set aside this consultancy income rather than benefit from it personally, and he is now able to donate £250,000 to the University's Institute of Process Research and Development.

Supported by our transformation fund, this interdisciplinary institute is carrying out fundamental research to help industry produce better pharmaceuticals and other fine chemicals by cutting cos⁞ts, energy and waste. Its work is highly strategic and world class (and is also supported by the EU and Yorkshire Forward).

Professor Kocienski could have done anything he wished with these funds; his decision to invest in his own University's research excellence is absolutely fantastic, and we can be very pleased and proud at this incredibly generous expression of confidence in our institution.

I am pleased, also, that he has allowed us to make his donation public. This tradition of philanthropy is more commonplace in
American universities, but we have other members of staff donating regularly to the University in different ways; they all deserve our thanks.

This is a great start to the term, and a great boost for our campaign fund. There is good news too across the range of data we use to measure success. We've won new awards worth some £91m so far this year - that's 30 per cent up on last year - and research turnover this year is up 11 per cent.

Staff right across the campus have responded to ever-increasing financial pressures and taken to heart the need to generate more income. Applications for new research projects totalling some £300m were submitted in the first half of the year - that's 30 per cent up on last year, and a tremendous achievement. Greater confidence is also reflected in double the number of European Research Council fellowship applications this year on last.

News about Leeds for Life, and its huge popularity with students in helping them make the most of their time here by integrating their whole university experience, has travelled far and wide, and we've even had requests to buy 'the system'. As we've explained, institutions are very welcome to replicate the tools, but the underpinning philosophy they will have to develop for themselves.

Leeds for Life's success is particularly pleasing because it sprang out of our strategy, via a transformational project, and so provides a very good example of how we can benefit our staff and students and improve our performance through strategic focus (and a lot of hard work).

Last October we took the decision to anticipate and begin planning for the likely effect of public expenditure cuts on our income. Our overriding concern, as I have explained on these pages and elsewhere, was to protect our staff and students from the funding axe.

These preparations included a total overhaul of our organisational change and employment policies and, as you will know, we now have a sector-leading agreement on jobs and restructuring.

The financial climate remains uncertain, but I am confident that all the work we have done means we are past the most difficult point. Through teamwork, mutual respect and professionalism we can turn again to building the confident, integrated collegial culture that brought us such success and fulfilment.

The outcome of the General Election is uncertain, although all parties seem to be agreed on the need not to be clear about how and where they will cut public spending. I hope it isn't true, incidentally, as has been claimed, that the leader of the Conservative Party has failed to mention the s-word - science - in any campaign speech.

As other countries invest in maintaining their international competitiveness, ploughing money into higher education - 2.9 per cent of GDP (gross domestic product) in the US and rising to 4 per cent in China, compared with an OECD* average of 1.5 per cent and just 1.3 per cent in the UK - we will continue to make the case to all parties that higher education is not just a fantastic investment, but absolutely key to our international standing and to the future of our country.

* (countries in the) Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.