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Dr David Douglas Cleevely CBE: oration

Read Professor Rachid Hourizi's oration on Dr David Cleevely CBE for the honorary degree of Doctor of Education in December 2022.


David Cleevely CBE
David Cleevely CBE

Vice-Chancellor, it gives me great pleasure to introduce David Cleevely CBE. David has been at the forefront of transformative change in both telecommunications and biotechnology. He is an internationally recognised entrepreneur and business leader, has advised multiple governments on innovation policy and is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Institution of Engineering and Technology.

David’s first career was as an engineer and researcher at the Long Range Studies Division of the Post Office, where he was an early champion of the packet switching technology that underpins the internet. He left the Post Office to gain a PhD at Cambridge University, where he continued his investigations of telecommunications networks and their impact on regional development. That move to Cambridge was the start of a close relationship with both city and region that continues to this day. Building upon his engineering foundations, David has gained international prominence as an entrepreneur and business leader. His achievements in that second phase of his career include the foundation of the telecommunications consultancy Analysis in 1985, co-foundation of the antibody giant Abcam in 1998 and subsequent service as Chair of the Raspberry Pi Foundation and Raspberry Pi (Trading) from 2014.

In the setting of this graduation ceremony, however, it is particularly fitting to mention David’s subsequent support for the engineers and entrepreneurs that followed him. He has invested in more than 55 companies, chairing many on the journey from start-up to profitability. He has also encouraged a wider community of his peers to join him in supporting next generation innovators, convening regional and venture capital organisations from Cambridge Wireless to Cambridge Angels In the context of this leadership and personal achievement, it is unsurprising that David receives regular recognition for his work and leadership. He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2013 New Year Honours for services to technology and innovation. He is a Fellow Commoner of Queen’s college Cambridge and an Honorary Fellow of Trinity Hall, Cambridge. He has also been appointed as an advisor to the National Engineering Policy Centre at the Royal Academy of Engineering and, subsequently as the chair of the Policy Fellowship Working Group. David was named the Barclays “Entrepreneurs’ Icon of the Year” in 2018, It is equally unsurprising that David is regularly asked to advise government on policy. He advised the Prime Minister and UK Government on the UK report. He was one of the eight industry experts that compiled the Communications White Paper which subsequently became the 2003 Communications Act and was appointed by the UK government to the Spectrum Management Advisory Group, which became the Ofcom Spectrum Advisory Board. David has appeared before Select committees in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

Vice-Chancellor, in recognition of his impact on the technological aspects of our industries, his ongoing role in the mentoring and support of the entrepreneurs and engineers who have followed him into starting their own companies, for his development of our national policy and contributions to our national life I present to you David Cleevely, who is exceptionally worthy to receive the degree of Doctor of Education, honoris causa.


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