Professor Iain Gillespie

Principal and Vice-Chancellor

Executive, University Executive Office

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Iain Gillespie has been Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Dundee since January 2021. He is the elected Convener of Universities Scotland (US) and Vice-President of Universities UK (UUK), having previously held the role of Chair of Universities Scotland Research & Knowledge Exchange Committee. He is also Chair of the Universities & Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) Scottish Committee and a member of the UK UCEA Board.

Early in his tenure at the University, Professor Gillespie led the development of the University Strategy to 2027, based upon the foundations of the University as a truly triple intensive (Research with Impact, Learning & Teaching, and Engagement and Enterprise) institution, with the delivery of social purpose at its core. Under his leadership the University has turned around its financial performance despite a challenging external environment, and he has been vocal in his engagement with government regarding the role of Universities in economic and social transformation. He has championed the University’s approach to building a Life Sciences Innovation District within Dundee, including the new £40m Innovation Hub. He has also reinvigorated the University’s approach to globalisation, leading the University’s Africa Initiative, which has seen the University and six public Universities in Malawi sign a commitment to equitable partnership, co-design, co-development and recognition, now commonly known as the Blantyre Declaration and leading a step change in University’s commitments with key partners in China. More recently, he has steered the creation of the Binks Institute for Sustainability, securing philanthropic funding for a multi-million pound Institute which will focus on net zero, climate change, and climate justice.

Prior to his appointment to Dundee, Professor Gillespie held the role of Pro Vice Chancellor, Research and Enterprise at the University of Leicester. At Leicester, he led their £100m Space Park development, the designation of the UK’s first Life Science Opportunity Zone at Charnwood, and the university’s Global Strategy, including Joint Education initiatives with Dalian University of Technology and Chongqing Medical University.

He was formerly Director of Science and Innovation at the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the UK’s leading funder for environmental science, and was lead director for international research across the seven UK research councils that are now part of UKRI. He is Honorary Visiting Professor at University College London, Honorary Professorial Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, Honorary Professor at Jiangsu University, China, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology, Honorary Professor Central South University.

Prior to NERC, Iain was Visiting Professor in innovation in the life sciences at the University of Edinburgh. He spent 10 years at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development OECD) leading work on science, technology and innovation and more than a decade in UK central government, with science-based roles in the Cabinet Office, and the Departments of Environment of Trade and Industry and of Health. He has had considerable engagement at UN and regional international level as well as in UK domestic policy and enterprise relations.

Declared interest  
Start date on Court 1 January 2021
Employment (other than University of Dundee) None
Directorships Design Dundee Ltd
Other pecuniary interests Member of USS
Any other disclosure
  1. Chair, Universities Scotland RKEC
  2. Board Member, UCEA Scottish Committee
  3. Board Member, Dundee Design Ltd (DDL Board)
  4. Board Member, Science & Industry Committee, Genome Canada
  5. Trustee, UKCEH Board
  6. Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh
  7. Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology
Related parties None
Register last updated 2022



Press release

The University of Dundee has signed up to an ambitious new climate and sustainability coalition seeking to accelerate Scotland’s transition to a post-net-zero future.

Published on 24 January 2024