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Present Activities

Professional Memberships, Honours etc

Some Previous Positions

  • Chairman, Ravensbourne University London, digital design and arts college
  • Trustee, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
  • Trustee and Vice-Chair, Internet Watch Foundation
  • Visiting Industrial Professor, Bristol University
  • Member, Science & Education Committee, The Royal Institution
  • Advisory Member, Commercial Board, Royal Collection Trust
  • Chairman, UK Parliament Advisory Council on Public Engagement
  • Non-Exec Director and mentor to the UK Parliament Public Internet Project
  • Founding Director, Culture Online, Dept. for Culture Media & Sport
  • Member, UK Government ‘Growing Up Digital’ Taskforce
  • Member, Innovation Lab Committee, Nesta
  • Trustee, Wildscreen
  • Trustee, Culture24
  • Member, Leading Museums Group
  • Member, UK Taskforce on Digital Inclusion
  • Member UK NERC Steering Group on Public Dialogue on Geo-engineering
  • Managing Director, Scient UK Ltd, a global e-business consultancy
  • Head of Commissioning and Editorial Director, BBC Online
  • Head of Digital Media and Learning Channels, BBC Education
  • Executive Editor, BBC Education
  • Executive Producer, Science, Business and Education, BBC
  • Producer/Director, BBC Television


As an experienced board member, Jon helps organisations to develop overarching strategy, innovate, drive performance and engage new audiences with services that they’ll value. He is unusual in bridging disparate fields; outreach and public engagement, governance, digital technology, education, media, engineering, science and culture. In these areas, and especially where they mix, Jon (often working through Thoughtsmith Ltd, a consulting company he co-founded with Dominic Tinley) advises the governing and executive boards of public and not-for-profit scientific, educational and environmental bodies. He has a particular interest in helping them to commission sustainable digital services and also to make the most of income-generating possibilities. He has also advised large commercial companies on their dealings with the public sector and is an angel-investor, adviser and/or non-executive director with several commercial technology-based start-up companies.

Jon is used to operating at Board and Ministerial level as an adviser and chairman, building consensus in sensitive and intellectually demanding areas and he works with discretion as a mentor and critical friend to policy-makers and senior officials. He has served on many public committees, dealing with topics such as digital inclusion, intellectual property, public engagement with democracy, and public communication and engagement with geo-engineering. He has sat on various grant-making committees including at the Wellcome Trust for Broadcast and Film Development Award panels.

Jon was founding Director of Culture Online at the UK Government’s Department for Culture Media and Sport – a programme to extend the reach of culture and the arts to new audiences using new digital techniques. He recruited and led a team of creative executives, producers and technologists, developing new public/private collaborations and winning twenty-eight major awards (including four BAFTAs, the National Newspaper Awards, a Webby and the UN World Summit E-Learning Award), as well as special citation from the UK National Audit Office for excellent management of risk and innovation. Jon spun out a commercial company from the project and for the DCMS Secretary of State he authored Encouraging Digital Access, a report popular and influential in the cultural sector for its practical advice and balance of commercial and non-profit needs.

As a BBC Executive Producer, Jon was responsible for more than fifty prime-time science, engineering, business and photography series and documentaries, winning many international awards. He was Head of Digital Media and Learning Channels for BBC Education, where he led the development of several world-first services, including GCSE Bitesize, and also supervised mass UK social-action campaigns for numeracy and computer literacy. He was subsequently Head of Commissioning & Editorial Director for BBC Online, leading online services across the BBC.

Until recently, Jon was Chairman of the Board of Governors at Ravensbourne, the digitally-focused fashion and communications college which achieved public University status under his leadership. Until August ’15 he was for nine years a Trustee of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, where he chaired its both its commercial trading arm and the visitor experience committee. He continues to take a keen interest in plants; especially economic botany, ethnopharmacology and plant genetic resources, and has accompanied several Kew botanical expeditions, making short films about their discoveries.

Jon has been a frequent public-speaker on digital business, science and culture, including four talks at the international TED conference on plant-science topics which have been viewed more than 3.3 million times. He has curated many public events, including ‘TEDx Houses of Parliament’ and has been a keynote speaker or panel member at many science communication events, helping the sector engage audiences in new ways. From 2004 to 2019, Jon was Visiting Industrial Professor at Bristol University’s School of Education, specialising in children’s (mis)understanding of science and technology. He is now an Honorary Professor at the Birmingham Institute for Forest Research (BIFoR), within the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Birmingham, UK. He was awarded a CBE in December 2006.

Also see my LinkedIn profile

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