Managing the potential for CEO conflicts of interest

Professor Philip Nelson took up position of Chief Executive of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) on 01 April 2014. Whilst seconded on a full time basis to EPSRC, he continues to be employed by the University of Southampton.

Professor Nelson's appointment was made using a process that takes into account the Code of Practice of the Commissioner for Public Appointments. Professor Nelson was considered to be the best person for the role, with excellent qualifications and experience. It was Professor Nelson's request that he continued in the employment of the University of Southampton and the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (now called Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) appointed him on this basis.

Professor Philip Nelson and the EPSRC are committed to managing all real, potential or apparent conflicts of interest with integrity, impartiality, honesty and openness.

Robust policies and procedures are in place to manage potential conflicts, these include:

  • The CEO will absent himself from all EPSRC and Research Councils UK (RCUK) discussions and meetings that relate to funding or funding proposals involving the University of Southampton.
  • All prospective decisions specifically concerning the University of Southampton which would normally involve the CEO will be referred directly to the Chief Operating Officer at the earliest opportunity.
  • An oversight group has been established to resolve issues of potential conflict (where the remediation is not obvious in advance, such as an investment in the University of Southampton); this consists of the Council Chair, the Chief Operating Officer and the Director of Programmes.
  • The CEO will not be an applicant or co-applicant on any funding proposal submitted to the EPSRC.
  • Where discussions/decisions concern the university sector broadly, the EPSRC Council Chair and Chief Operating Officer will discuss with the CEO the extent to which the conflict is material and how closely Professor Nelson should be involved, on a case-by-case basis.

Minutes of meetings will clearly record where Professor Nelson had a potential conflict and the action taken.