Professor Richard A Williams is an engineer and innovator who has brought several new concepts, processes and methodologies into practice in the chemical, materials, energy and instrumentation sectors. The work is reported in over 400 scientific journal papers and several patents. He has a strong interest in the effective translation of scientific and engineering knowledge to society through commercial and not-for-profit routes. He has worked extensively in developing relationships with academic and industrial partners in Europe, Middle East, Asia and Africa. He has interests in public engagement projects across the arts-science-engineering domains.
He studied at Imperial College London graduating in BSc (Eng) Mineral Technology (1983) and PhD (1995). He worked as a trainee metallurgist for Anglo American Corporation (1979-80) and De Beers Industrial Diamonds Research Laboratory (1982–1986). He was appointed lecturer in Chemical Engineering at University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (now University of Manchester) in 1986. He specialised in the area of surface and colloid engineering. In 1993 he was appointed Royal Academy of Engineering-Rio Tinto Professor of Minerals Engineering at the University of Exeter (based at the Camborne School of Mines). Aged 33 he was one of the youngest engineering professors in the UK. In 1999 he was appointed as Anglo American plc professor of mineral and process engineering at the University of Leeds where he was responsible for developing a new Institute of Particle Science and Engineering, a core development in re-development of chemical engineering at the University within a newly formed School of Process, Materials and Environmental Engineering. He was Head of the Department of Mining (2001–2003). He was director of British Nuclear Fuels Limited (BNFL) Research Alliance at University, responsible for development of new activities in nuclear energy waste processing (2000–2006). He was founding director of Centre for Industrial Collaboration in Particle Science and Technology (2003–2006) and Leeds Nanomanufacturing Institute (2004–2010). He was appointed Pro-Vice Chancellor (2005-2010) at University of Leeds, responsible for leadership of enterprise, knowledge transfer and international strategy (2005-2010) and latterly for international partnerships (2010-2011) strategy. He was on the academic board of the World Universities Network (WUN) (2009-2011). He was appointed as Pro-Vice-Chancellor at University of Birmingham in September 2011, with responsibility for Engineering and Physical Sciences.
He is on the editorial boards of: The IChemE Transactions (UK); Advanced Powder Technology (Japan); Minerals Engineering (UK); Particuology (China); Recent Patents on Chemical Engineering (USA); and Nuclear Energy Science and Technology (USA).
He has held appointments on regional CBI Council (Yorkshire, 2008-2010) and corporate directorships of: Alta Birmingham China Ltd (2012-); NetScientific Solutions (2012-); Alta Innovations Ltd (2011-); Resilience (2011-); Leeds, York and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce (2008–2011); Leeds Ventures Shanghai (2008–2010); Engineering Conferences International -a US Engineering Charity (2007-2011); Medilink, Yorkshire and the Humber (2007–2010); Dispersia Limited (2006-2011); University of Leeds IP Limited (2006–2010); University of Leeds Consulting Limited (2006–2010); White Rose Technology Limited (2006–2010); University of Leeds Innovations Limited (2006–2010); University of Leeds Innovations Centre Limited (2006–2010); Structure Vision Limited (2003-); Industrial Tomography Systems Ltd (2001-); Disperse Group Plc, (1999–2007); Optomo Ltd (1997-2009), Disperse Technologies (1995–2001); Exeter Enterprises Limited (1994–1999).
He was Vice President of the Royal Academy of Engineering (2005–2008). He is on the scientific advisory boards of NetScientific (2011- ); PSB Academy (2012-); King Adbullah Institute for Nanotechnology (2008-). He currently co-chairs: Royal Academy of Engineering-Chinese Academy of Engineering Panel on ‘Energy Storage Technologies – Status and Critical Needs’ (2010-2012); European Academies of Engineering and National Academy of Engineering (US) ‘Frontiers Conference Series’ (2010-2012).
He has received some awards for scientific publications and innovations including: The Society of Chemical Industry Research and Development for Society Award (2009); Thomas Edison Innovation Award (2007); Royal Academy of Engineering Silver Medal (2003); Noel E. Webster Medal (2001); Isambard Kingdom Brunel Lectureship and Prize (1998); The Beilby Gold Medal and Prize (1997); Institution of Electrical Engineering Ambrose Fleming Medal and Premium (1993); The ESSO Centenary Award (1988). He was awarded OBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours 2009 for services to science and engineering.