Professor David Gann CBE

Department: Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Development & External Affairs

College appointment: Fellow by Special Election

Academic position: Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Saïd Business School



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David is a university and business leader with extensive international experience in innovation strategy and technology management. His research explores why and how innovation happens, the ways it continually transforms the world we live in, and how it can be managed.

He was previously Vice-President (Innovation) at Imperial College London. He has a PhD in Industrial Economics, is a Chartered Civil Engineer, Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Art and Fellow of the City & Guilds Institute.

David is Chairman of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, a global leader in the development of fusion energy. He is non-executive director of VenCap International plc, a leading venture fund-of-funds. As an entrepreneur, he has formed several companies, mentors start-ups and advises boards on innovation and technology management. He has been non-executive director of Directa Plus plc, a leading producer of pristine graphene, a company he helped float on the London Stock Exchange. He was Group Innovation Executive at Laing O’Rourke plc.

His pro bono work includes being a director of the London Symphony Orchestra and chairman of LSO Live. He co-founded, and is a trustee of, the Villars Institute, a Swiss not-for-profit foundation for systemic change and intergenerational collaboration, aimed at accelerating the transition to a net zero economy, and restoring the health of the planet. 

David was a member of the UK Government’s Innovation Expert Group, the Department of Health & Social Care’s Technology Advisory Board, and the Ministry of Defence’s Technology and Innovation Board. He was Chairman of the Smart London Board, responsible for London’s digital strategy, and he developed Crossrail’s Innovation Strategy.

David was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2010 Queen’s Birthday Honours, for services to engineering, and received the 2014 Tjalling C. Koopmans Asset Award for extraordinary contributions to the economic sciences. He was awarded the Imperial College Medal in 2019.

David is a passionate supporter of music and the arts; Patron of Glyndebourne, London Symphony Orchestra and Brighton Festival. He enjoys cycling in Sussex and skiing and walking in the Swiss Alps. He watches rugby and cricket whenever possible; played at the Harlequins Rugby Football Club and is a Member of The Reform Club. He is a keen bee keeper and gardener.


David has established and taught undergraduate and postgraduate courses on Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship. He is the author of the textbook, The Management of Technological Innovation (OUP), and The Oxford Handbook of Innovation Management (OUP). He has supervised many MSc, MBA and DPhil students. He is an experienced executive education programme director, with particular experience of working with digital, technology, engineering, and construction companies as well as leaders in government.

Research Interests

David’s research explores why and how innovation happens, the ways it continually transforms the world we live in, and how it can be managed. He is interested in the role of ‘play’ in learning and innovation processes and has published two books on the subject, including Think, Play, Do: technology, innovation and organisation (OUP), and; The Playful Entrepreneur: how to adapt and thrive in uncertain times (Yale University Press). He publishes on technology management and innovation strategy in journals such as Research Policy, Organization Science, Harvard Business Review, California Management Review and Sloan Management Review, and on systems engineering in Ingenia, ICE Proceedings and Project Management Journal. He writes a blog for the World Economic Forum and is author and co-author of eight books, published in eight languages including Arabic, Chinese, English, Italian, Japanese, Malay, Portuguese and Spanish.

Selected Publications

Full list of publications on David Gann’s Google Scholar page