Warren East's commendation video transcript

Warren East CBE

PROFESSOR WARREN MANNING: Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Lieutenant, High Sheriff, Mayor of Derby, Honoured guests, Graduands of 2023 and all our guests here today, it gives me great pleasure to be presenting today Warren East CBE for the award of Honorary Doctor of the University.

Warren retired last year Chief Executive Officer of Derby-based engineering company, Rolls-Royce PLC, a name recognized around the world as the epitome of excellence and the gold standard of British engineering. He was recruited as chief executive in 2015 to steer the company through a challenging period and ended up navigating the company through the most turbulent period in its 117-year history.

Warren studied engineering at the University of Oxford in the early 1980s and took a Masters in Business Administration at Cranfield University in 1990. The early parts of his career were spent with the American company Texas Instruments, famous for its innovative technology in electronics.

In 1994, he joined ARM Holdings, the British microprocessor design and software company and was appointed CEO in 2001. He took the company from a small Cambridge-based business to the world's leading designer of electronic chips, supplying almost all the world's smartphone chips.

In 2014, he joined the Board of Rolls-Royce and was appointed CEO the year after. Warren will be remembered for guiding Rolls-Royce through one crisis after another, including the crippling impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the aviation industry.

He led the company with energy and enthusiasm, and returned the company to profitability, despite earlier issuing a profit warning on only his second day in post. He is held in great esteem by his former colleagues across the globe who presented him with a book of farewell messages on his retirement.

The words are a fitting tribute to his management style and here are just a few of the phrases used: 'Amazing resilience', 'unfailing good humour', 'tenacity', 'integrity', 'incredible optimism', 'quiet determination', 'perseverance', 'honest and transparent', 'a humbleness and modesty that is unusual in a CEO' and 'a passion for the people and for helping the planet'.

Warren put in place the strategy to prepare the business for a thriving future in a net-zero carbon world. In 2022, he sponsored the Rolls-Royce Submarines' partnership with the University to create the Nuclear Skills Academy, the first of its kind aiming to sustain nuclear capability by creating a dedicated pipeline of talent. It generated enormous interest with more than 1,200 applicants for the 200 places in its very first year.

He is also a proud sponsor of the Down to Earth Derby project, which is working in collaboration with the Eden Project to increase the vibrancy of the city through green infrastructure incentives and urban biodiversity.

He has just joined the board of British nuclear fusion start-up Tokamak Energy working to develop commercial nuclear fusion power for cheap and abundant clean energy. He is a keen advocate of the use of sustainable fuels in the aviation industry to deliver the sector's 2050 net-zero pledges.

Warren has three grown-up children, plays the church organ in his spare time, and is celebrating here today with his wife, Amanda.

Chancellor, in recognition of his distinguished career in engineering, support for the sustainability agenda and impact in the City of Derby, we are delighted to award Warren East the Honorary Degree of Doctor of the University.

WARREN EAST CBE: Well, um a moment. So, Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Lieutenant, High Sheriff, Mayor of Derby, Honoured guests, Graduands, Graduates of 2023 and all the guests who are here today, thank you so much for that introduction.

Goodness me, I am incredibly humbled listening to that and I'm very grateful that the University of Derby has decided to give me this Honorary Doctorate. Now, I have to confess that until I came to work at Rolls-Royce, Derby was a place that I went through on the way to somewhere else, but as the CEO at Rolls-Royce, Rolls Royce infused every part of my life for the best part of a decade.

So I very much appreciate Derby now, and it's particularly meaningful for me to receive this from you here in Derby, so to whoever made the decision, the group of decision makers, thank you very much indeed, it is absolutely fantastic to receive this.

Receiving an honorary degree here is obviously very much on behalf of those people at Rolls-Royce around the corner who I've worked with recently, who create and market the best airplane engines in the world, and indeed it's on behalf of all those people who I've worked with at ARM who still design the best microprocessors in the world.

Now it's interesting that in both of those cases, nearly all of us are exposed to those products pretty much all the time without noticing. We simply take them for granted and yet you know this is being live streamed through dozens of our microprocessors that are taking this event and there are thousands of people hopping on our airplanes today and everyone just takes it for granted. Now actually that is a great illustration of engineering and business, working together serving society to make life better.

And a couple of minutes of message for those who are graduating today, let me explain why I think it's a great time to be graduating, especially from the Business School here in Derby which is of course one of the several birthplaces of industry, but as the home of Rolls-Royce is undoubtedly an industrial technology hot-spot.

So a couple of observations for you, engineering where I've spent my career, is about taming science for the benefit of society. And a second observation, business is the vehicle that we use to channel that benefit into society in a sustainable way and I don't mean green sustainable I mean in a business sense of the word, sustainable in a way that you can carry on doing it for decades and indeed in the case of Rolls Royce and many other companies across the generations.

Now today our society faces lots of challenges and we could be here all morning talking about those but we won't be, there's one in particular and that's our requirement for energy and the related issue of climate change which is very visible, whatever your perspective on this is, it's pretty clear that without change, billions yes billions of people will be displaced, thrown into poverty, we'll see starvation on an absolutely massive scale and ultimately the population will be reduced in a very unpleasant way if we don't do something about it better than we're doing at the moment. 

So why on earth is that a good time for our graduates? So the answer is this, after 250 years roughly of powering our society through fossil fuels it's clear we have to develop alternatives, we need to make a massive change, the so-called energy transition, over the next two generations and for most of those graduates graduating today that's within your working lives.

Now the science that we need is largely here, the engineering is underway but more of that needs to be done but we do have the means to generate energy with zero-carbon impact, we have the means to store it, we have the means to move it around and we have the means to deploy it. There's lots of engineering required to turn all that science into benefit but that will happen over the next couple of decades.

However, secondly, we must be able to afford it and that means business. Business remember is the vehicle to channel that benefit to society. The energy transition will create opportunity for business but also requirements for business, a requirement to deliver products and services so that consumers can afford it, a requirement for businesses to pay all their people, a requirement to pay the investors who took the risk in order for the investors to invest in more businesses and get the job done in time. And actually a requirement for those businesses to retain profit themselves to invest in their own futures and all of these players in the cycle, the consumers who buy, the people who work the investors who take the risk, the businesses themselves, they all have to pay tax and tax is actually a good thing because taxes fund our society at large they fund our health, our education, our infrastructure, and importantly the ongoing investment in science which leads to that engineering and enables that whole great cycle that I've just outlined. Now the energy transition is a once in a 250 years opportunity and it's a vital need and this generation of graduates will see their working lives intersect with that once in a 250 years change. You have a vital role to play in that, many of you will be the ones who make those cycles work in business over the next couple of decades, to see, perhaps to actually lead, our human society through this crucial period and secure the future for the generations to come.

Now I think if I was you I think that's a great privilege and so I'm standing here and I wish you the very best of luck, congratulations on graduating, the very best of luck as you embark on that exciting journey.

Thank You.

Warren East's commendation video

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