The University of Cambridge announces the appointment of Dr Diarmuid O’Brien as the new Chief Executive of Cambridge Enterprise, effective September 2021.
Dr O’Brien takes over one of the world’s most successful university centres for technology transfer from outgoing chief executive Dr Tony Raven, who has grown Cambridge Enterprise into an innovation powerhouse with a portfolio of spinout companies that have raised billions in follow-on funding and help power the UK’s thriving innovation economy.
Dr O’Brien comes to Cambridge Enterprise from his role as Chief Innovation & Enterprise Officer at Trinity College Dublin, where he had overall responsibility for the development and enhancement of the college’s innovation and enterprise strategy. In particular, he led the establishment of a new innovation campus—Trinity East—and the creation of the Grand Canal Innovation District.
Prior to this Dr O’Brien was Director of Trinity Research and Innovation with responsibility for both the Research Development Office and the Office of Corporate Partnership and Knowledge Exchange. In that role he led the establishment of the University Bridge venture fund, which is ranked in the world’s top five collaborative university funds.1
While at Trinity Dr O’Brien was also the Executive Director of CRANN, an internationally recognised centre of excellence for nanotechnology and materials science research.
He has held senior management roles in several university-founded start-up companies, including NTera, Xoliox, and Deerac Fluidics.
Dr O’Brien was a Research Fellow at Princeton University. He has a PhD in Physics from the University of Sheffield and a degree in Materials Science from Trinity College Dublin.
Professor Stephen J Toope, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, said: “I’m pleased to announce the appointment of Dr O’Brien as Cambridge Enterprise’s new Chief Executive. He has an impressive track record of working in higher education and with business and government, and his expertise in innovation will be an enormous asset to the University.
“Under the direction of Dr Tony Raven, Cambridge Enterprise has thrived and grown into one of the most vibrant knowledge transfer centres in the sector—generating innovation, commercialisation and employment, and contributing to society through research. I am delighted that Dr O’Brien will drive forward this extraordinary success story.”
Ajay Chowdhury, Chair of Cambridge Enterprise, said, “Diarmuid’s great ability to bring together government, industry, and academia—amply demonstrated by his leadership on the establishment of the Grand Canal innovation district in Dublin—coupled with his university background and his operational experience at Irish and Swiss spin-outs, make him the ideal candidate to lead Cambridge Enterprise in the years ahead.”
Dr O’Brien said, “The University of Cambridge is one of the world’s top research universities with a global reputation for the impact its discoveries have made. It will be a great privilege to support Cambridge academics in applying their research to some of the world’s most challenging problems and to work to enhance the broader Cambridge innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem.”
The University established Cambridge Enterprise in 2006 to support its academics, researchers, staff, and students in licensing their inventions, facilitating their work as external consultants, and spinning out companies based on University intellectual property. Cambridge Enterprise has invested £29.8 million in 139 companies since inception. Its portfolio companies have cumulatively raised £2 billion in follow on funding. Over the past 15 years, Cambridge Enterprise has provided £178 million to the University.