Agritech Business Centre
Conference Centre

Chris Earnshaw - Chair

Chris brings many years of experience in managing innovation and engineering projects in a range of industries and roles supporting small early-stage technology companies to senior executive roles in a FTSE100 company. For the past 2 decades he has served as non-executive chair of businesses and organisations in a range of industry sectors, following an executive career as Engineering Director for the BT Group.

Chris was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 1999 and recently served as a Trustee of the Academy. He is a past President and Chairman of the Trustees of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), Europe’s largest engineering professional body. He has been actively involved in fostering close relationships between universities, research organisations and industry partners throughout his career.

Chris was awarded the OBE in 2015 for services to UK Engineering and Technology.

Nicole Sadd

Nicole leads the commercial team at Rothamsted, the place and space where the world’s leading experts work together to feed the world and nurture our planet.

Nicole’s vision is transforming Rothamsted in Hertfordshire, UK – known as the home of agri-food systems for over 180 years – into the epicentre of sustainable food systems: bringing together the innovation, investment and the enterprise needed to enable invaluable scientific research.

With a diverse commercial and academic background, Nicole is in a unique position to combine a strategic approach with the requirements of independent science and data, to meet the demands of government and funding partners. Ultimately, she is redefining Rothamsted’s unique proposition to attract the investment and very best international brains needed to solve one of the greatest challenges facing humanity – how to sustainably feed the growing global population with increasingly limited resources.

Zahir Sachak

Zahir is the Finance Director for the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. He brings extensive expertise in financial strategy, organisational management, and business transformation from both the private and public sectors.

Zahir spent 20 years in the private sector before joining the Department for Trade and Industry in 2003, which later became the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). In 2011, he transitioned to BBSRC, where he has played a crucial role in senior teams overseeing research and innovation campus strategies and major infrastructure programmes.

At BBSRC, Zahir leads the council’s finances, including overseeing the funding and financial performance of eight strategically funded institutes, ensuring efficient resource allocation for ground-breaking research and innovation. He has been instrumental in attracting substantial private sector investments in two major UKRI-supported research and innovation campuses. 

Jolyon Austin

Jolyon is a Non-Executive Director and Board Advisor with 25 years of executive experience at the forefront of enabling business scale and transformation for startups, SMEs and industry giants (£5M–£30BN) across life sciences, technology, retail and consumer products sectors in Europe, the Americas and Asia.

Currently, he sits on the board of an environmental charity and an independent prep school, chairing sub-committees for each. In addition, he advises technology start-ups.

His executive career included more than two decades of experience as a Partner for EY and Managing Director for Accenture, working with FTSE 100, SME and startup boards and senior leaders to design and deliver radical transformation across lines of business and functions – spanning operations, supply chain and logistics, sales, marketing, finance and more.

He trained as a scientist with a degree in Physics followed by a Masters in Atmospheric Physics.

Jolyon lives in the Chilterns with his wife, two children, two dogs and two cats. He has many interests including the natural environment, gardening, travelling, skiing, and mountaineering.

David Brown

David has spent 30 years working within the food and horticulture supply chain sector, serving all the major multiples. David was Managing Director of a multi-site horticultural supplier, with a workforce of over 1000 people.

More recently he has undertaken several COO business improvement roles and is currently involved in a large glasshouse production operation that supplies UK retail.

David is looking to bring his experience from within this sector, to assist Rothamsted Enterprises within the downstream interface into the customer facing parts of the agriculture supply chain, as well as using his experience in expanding a large commercial organisation.

Peter Oxley

Peter has over 25 years’ experience of leading and managing change in a diverse range of businesses, sectors and countries. A qualified chartered accountant and law graduate, he has worked in professional services – working for Andersen, Kroll, BDO Stoy Hayward and Linklaters – as well as the private and charitable sector: for Persimmon plc, Oaklands College and now the Lawes Agricultural Trust. Peter started his career as an advisor to distressed businesses of varying sizes (from SMEs to large multinationals) across sectors which included science and tech, construction, retail, manufacturing, education and professional services. As a global business manager at Linklaters, Peter had responsibility for the Real Estate, IP, TMT and Tax global practice groups, and was Director for Finance and Resources with overall responsibility for the non-curriculum areas of Oaklands College in St Albans. Peter is now CEO of the Lawes Agricultural Trust, a charitable trust which is the owner of the Rothamsted estates in Harpenden and Suffolk, comprising commercial and residential accommodation, agricultural land, and significant resources of global scientific importance.

Peter is also an author and editor, and is cofounding director/shareholder of independent publishing house Burning Chair Publishing.

Angela Karp

Angela Karp was appointed Director & Chief Executive of Rothamsted Research in July 2020; the first female Director since the Institute was founded in 1843. In her previous role of Director for Science Innovation, Engagement and Partnerships, she developed new initiatives for collaborative innovation including FarmInn, which has involved co-developing farmer-led innovations, and AGRIA, a regionally funded programme supporting collaborations between SMEs and researchers for co-developing innovative solutions to challenges in agri-food. Working closely with Cranfield University as well as UCL and University of Hertfordshire, Angela is also the Programme Director of SHAKE Climate Change, which currently has eleven ventures in the portfolio. She has always focused on ensuring science delivers impact, whether this is to farmers, policy-makers, industry or society and is a member of numerous panels and committees, including the Defra Innovation R&D panel and BBC Rural Affairs Committee.

Angela has a first degree in Genetics and completed her PhD in cytogenetics at Aberystwyth. She has an impressive research background with more than 40 years’ experience in crop genetics improvement for sustainable agriculture and bio-renewables. She has over 130 refereed publications, co-authored a genetics text book and is co-editor of books on genetic diversity and bioenergy. In 2007 she received the Royal Agricultural Society of England Research Medal and, in 2008, the Alfred-Toepfer Prize for her research achievements.

Louise Warren

Louise Warren is a qualified Company Secretary with 15 years’ experience in the financial and charity sectors. Louise is responsible for managing effective interactions between the Board of Trustees, the Chair and Deputy Chair and the Institute Director. Louise also takes responsibility for statutory obligations arising from our status as an incorporated charity and ensuring the smooth running of the associated Committees operated by the Board. The role encompasses responsibility for all subsidiary companies and the provision of governance and administrative support to joint ventures as required.