The Reporter
Issue 486, 25 November 2002
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Shell leader returns to Leeds


Philip WattsChairman of Royal Dutch/Shell Group and Leeds graduate Philip Watts (pictured left) visited the University this month to find out more about research at Leeds and to explain how technology influences the oil industry.

Before visiting earth sciences and engineering departments, he addressed an audience of staff and students, talking about his own time at Leeds, living in Hyde Park and sharing his flat with mice. His speech The technology imperative – realising the potential for innovation in meeting energy challenges highlighted the importance of university research in helping Shell improve. “Technology is in our DNA,” he said.

Asked how universities can best prepare students to work with latest technologies and how they could provide comparable equipment for training, he acknowledged that universities couldn’t expect to keep up with corporate expenditure on high tech equipment. Nor should they need to. “You come to university to learn to think and study something in depth,” he said.

He noted that ‘people’s changing priorities – as consumers and as citizens’ would increasingly affect the energy industry, and he tackled student concerns over Shell’s environmental record: “We are one of the best in class and our annual report shows we are getting to grips with it. For over five years we’ve been transparent and published our progress.” Although upbeat about the company’s progress on environmental issues, he thought that reliance on renewable fuels ‘wouldn’t happen in this century’.

Responding to questions on student recruitment, he acknowledged that more needs to be done to encourage school pupils to think about careers in engineering.

He has worked for the oil giant since 1969 and became chairman in 2001. He completed a BSc in physics at Leeds, then spent two years teaching in Sierra Leone before returning to the University to gain an MSc in geophsyics.

Science joins industry – (l-r) Professor Rob Knipe, Clive Mather from Shell UK, Dr Derek Fairhead, Philip Watts and Vice-Chancellor Sir Alan Wilson



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