The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), Scotland’s National Academy, has announced its 2023 intake of Fellows, with 91 names from business, science, arts, sports, civil society and academia from Scotland and beyond.
The RSE’s current Fellowship of around 1,800 Fellows include some of the greatest thinkers, researchers and practitioners working in or with Scotland today, and this year’s cohort recognises the outstanding contribution from leading minds in business.
Robin Watson CBE, former chief executive of Wood Plc, the Scottish multinational engineering and consultancy company, was awarded a Fellowship for his services to business.
Mr. Watson stepped down from his role at Wood Plc in 2022, where he spent 10 years on the board, seven of which as chief executive. He transformed the business into one of the world’s foremost engineering and consultancy companies, and was awarded his CBE in Her Majesty the Queen’s 2020 Birthday Honours, in recognition of services to international trade.
His track record of global business impact, passion for developing the Scottish economy, huge appetite for encouraging academic and business partnerships and the reputation and standing to positively influence make him an asset to the RSE network.
Robin Watson commented: “I am honoured and delighted to have been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. The RSE has a long, rich and diverse history with a purpose which has endured, advancing learning and useful knowledge. In today’s challenging environment, this purpose appears more precious than ever, and I very much look forward to helping support the innovative thinkers of the future, as an RSE Fellow.”
Professor Sir John Ball, President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, said: “It is a great privilege to welcome our new Fellows – they represent outstanding commitment and achievement at the highest level across a diverse range of sectors. From scientific advancement that changes lives to leading business innovation recognised across the world, the RSE welcomes the best minds to harness their unique insight and make knowledge useful for the greater good.”
Jackie Waring, an entrepreneur and pioneer who is changing the face of angel investing in Scotland, will also be joining this year’s prestigious cohort. With a track record of over 30 years of impactful advocacy for women's entrepreneurship, Ms Waring has been an active advisor to governments, industry bodies and several high growth businesses. She was a key figure involved in the Scottish Government’s recently published Pathways: A New Approach for Women in Entrepreneurship report, and was the driving force behind the creation of the UK’s very first equity fund for women entrepreneurs.
Ms Waring has also founded Investing Women Angels, Scotland’s first all-female business angel group, and set up AccelerateHER, a vibrant network of female founders and partners who share the passion to accelerate the growth, visibility and backing of talented female leaders. Along with her work to encourage and elevate female entrepreneurs, she brings a powerful mix of entrepreneurial spirit, senior UK policy and economic development experience to the RSE’s Fellowship.
Speaking of her Fellowship, Ms. Waring said: “It’s an immense honour to be appointed as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. I look forward to actively contributing to the organisation’s exceptional work in promoting economic and social progress building on the efforts of Investing Women Angels and AccelerateHER to inspire and support future generations of innovative thinkers.”
The RSE’s ambition of deploying knowledge for the public good will also be furthered by new Fellow Alexander Begbie CBE, CEO of Scottish Financial Enterprise (SFE). Prior to his role at SFE, Mr. Begbie held several senior HR and transformation director roles in both financial services and the energy sectors. His experience at Tesco Bank, Standard Life, Royal Bank of Scotland, AEGON, and Scottish Power means he is well versed in driving collaboration and empowering teams both in Scotland and the Far East.
Mr. Begbie received an MBA from the University of Edinburgh and was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2018 for services to business and social mobility. His work in the third sector with organisations such as Career Ready, Place2Be, Young Person Guarantee and Developing Young Workforce positions him as a real advocate for young people, and he will be an asset to the RSE in ensuring the voices of all parts of society are heard in policy and decision making.
Alexander Begbie CBE said: “I am absolutely delighted to have received a Fellowship from the Royal Society of Edinburgh. I am thoroughly looking forward to actively contributing to the work the RSE, and specifically in areas where I have a particular interest, for example the economy and business, inclusion, social mobility and employability. It is an honour to have this opportunity, and I would also like to pass on my congratulations to all the other new Fellows who were announced today”.
The new intake follows in the footsteps of a venerable list of Fellows, including Peter Higgs, Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne, James Clerk Maxwell and James Watt, whose impact on society in Scotland, and the wider world, has changed the way our nation works.
In conclusion, Sir John Ball said: “Harnessing our Fellows’ talents and ideas allows us to mobilise a wide range of expertise to tackle some of the most complex challenges society faces. In welcoming our new Fellows, I look forward to seeing the positive effect they will have on society in Scotland and beyond.”