Bob Betts

Bob Betts receiving his honorary degree (HonDUniv)
Credit: Ede & Ravenscroft


Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, honoured guests and graduates, it gives me great pleasure to be presenting today, Bob Betts (Managing Director of clockmakers Smith of Derby Limited) for the award of Honorary Doctor of the University.

For the last ten years, Bob has held the position of Managing Director of world renowned Derby clockmakers Smith of Derby Limited, one of the most revered names in English horology. He is also Operations Director for Warwick International Computing Systems Limited – the UK's leading supplier of occupational health and health and safety software.

Bob was born in Derby in 1961 and grew up in Breadsall, part of a busy family with two sisters and a younger brother. Bob’s father, Barry, was a lecturer in higher education and often worked at the Kedleston Road site and other city education venues at a time when facilities and the provision of academia in the City was very different than it is today. So Bob is immensely proud to be associated with our University.

Leaving school at 16, Bob told his father that he didn’t want to go along with a typical Derby based apprenticeship. He wanted something unusual. Six years later Bob had travelled the world and he left the Merchant Navy as a qualified Second Officer. He had come to realise that his future was best served as a graduate, so Bob returned to education and completed a degree in Construction Economics at Nottingham Trent University.

It was that degree that gave Bob the chance to attend a graduate recruitment day with the IT giant IBM. 20 years later Bob was a Director of IBM UK. He had successfully navigated many roles and engagements both at home and internationally, driving business and leading teams. He had trained in INSEAD, France, and a Diploma in Marketing completed his academic profile.

But it was a chance meeting with the president of Smith of Derby Ltd, Nick Smith, which led to Bob leading the company as Managing Director, through ten of the company’s most challenging years in its 160 year history.

The company is now internationally focused, a shining example of apprentice schooling and is fully integrated with many of the City initiatives and challenges. Smith of Derby’s portfolio includes timepieces at some of the most celebrated national landmarks such as St Paul’s Cathedral, St Pancras International Station and the Emirates Stadium in London.

Bob personally drove China and Middle East market penetration with huge success. The company has built the world’s largest solar powered clock for Baghdad and the world’s largest pendulum-regulated clock, two and a half times the size of Big Ben, in China.

Bob recently joined a City of Derby and University of Derby delegation to China, drawing on some of his export know-how and his personal network, to help develop City and University links with the Chinese business community.

Bob loves to lead change management programs and recently joined Warwick International as Operations Director to help drive the company through an exciting product development and expansion program. His work for our City is just as impressive. He is an active member of many City organisations and Chairman of Marketing Derby, the award winning public/private sector company which is challenged with attracting inward investment to the City.

Under his leadership, Marketing Derby has been voted as the top inward investment team in the country for the past two years running in what is a very tough economic climate. Bob will say that that success is about a team and he has been blessed with working with great teams.

Cementing Bob’s contribution to his City, he is currently a Visiting Fellow in our College of Business, Law and Social Sciences and a passionate champion of the University. His personal support to the institution over the past years has been greatly appreciated across many student engagements and mentorships.

Chancellor, in recognition of his considerable contribution to the local business community, we are delighted to award Bob Betts the honorary degree of Doctor of the University.

[July 2017]