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UKtech50 2023: The most influential people in UK technology

Computer Weekly has announced the 13th annual UKtech50 – our definitive list of the movers and shakers in the UK tech sector

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Computer Weekly has announced the 13th annual UKtech50, our definitive list of the movers and shakers in UK technology – the CIOs, industry executives, public servants and business leaders driving the role of technology in the UK economy.

This year, congratulations go, for the first time jointly, to Michelle Donelan and Chloe Smith, secretary of state for science, innovation and technology at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT), who have been named the most influential person(s) in UK technology in 2023.

The role of secretary of state for science, innovation and technology is normally held by Donelan, but as she is currently on maternity leave, Smith has temporarily stepped into the role.

Our aim was to identify the 50 most influential leaders in UK IT. An expert judging panel representing every aspect of the IT profession helped to decide the results, along with a reader vote, to determine who holds the most influence over the future of the UK tech sector – and of IT professionals across the country.

The past year has brought new and different types of challenges, and leaders in all parts of the tech industry – from startups to government – have shown incredible spirit, drive and determination to ensure the industry and its people continue to thrive.

The judges’ selection of the top 50 was influenced by several important tech trends – not least the importance of technology in a challenging economic climate. The list reflects the growing influence of sustainability and ethics in the IT sector, as the digital revolution continues to transform the way we all live and work. Judges were keen to promote diversity in the tech community, in terms of gender, ethnicity, geography, industry sector and company size.

Judging was particularly tough this year, not only due to a record number of nominations, but due to the quality of nominees, who have all shown resilience and strength during a challenging time.

Our thanks to the team at Nash Squared for their support with this year’s UKtech50.

Here is the list of the 50 most influential people in UK technology for 2023.

1. Michelle Donelan/Chloe Smith, secretary of state for science, innovation and technology, Department for Science, Innovation and Technology

Michelle Donelan was appointed secretary of state for science, innovation and technology in February 2023, prior to which she was secretary of state in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Donelan is currently on maternity leave, with Chloe Smith acting as the current secretary of state.

2. Lindy Cameron, CEO, National Cyber Security Centre

Cameron became CEO of the National Cyber Security Centre in October 2020 following more than two decades of national security policy and crisis management experience. She was previously a director general in the Northern Ireland Office and at the Department for International Development. Cameron was last year’s winner of UKtech50.

3. Megan Lee Devlin, CEO, Central Digital and Data Office

Megan Lee Devlin was appointed executive director of the government’s new Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO) in November 2022, leading the strategic centre for digital, data and technology (DDaT) across government. In her role, she is in charge of 18,000 digital, data and technology professionals, and leads the DDaT function for government. She previously held the role of chief strategy and transformation officer in the CDDO.

4. Clare Barclay, CEO, Microsoft UK

Clare Barclay is CEO of Microsoft UK, where she is responsible for all of Microsoft’s product and service offerings in the UK and for supporting the success of its commercial customers and partners. Prior to October 2020, she was the software giant’s UK chief operating officer for four years.

5. Demis Hassabis, founder and CEO, Google DeepMind

Demis Hassabis founded artificial intelligence (AI) company DeepMind in 2010. The company, which was bought by Google in 2014 for about £400m, is involved in several AI projects across sectors, including the NHS. Before founding DeepMind, Hassabis completed a PhD in neuroscience at UCL. He is a previous UKtech50 winner, in 2019.

6. Daljit Rehal, chief digital and information officer, HM Revenue & Customs

Former Centrica IT chief Daljit Rehal was appointed chief digital and information officer at HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) in September 2020. He is responsible for a budget of more than £1bn and oversees some of the highest-profile IT systems in government, such as taxes, national insurance and the customs applications at the UK’s complex post-Brexit borders.

7. Mark Logan, chief entrepreneurial adviser to Scottish government

Former Skyscanner chief operating officer Mark Logan completed a review for the Scottish government in August 2020 that examined opportunities for the country’s tech ecosystem. He was subsequently appointed as an adviser to help with implementing his recommendations. The programme aims to establish Scotland as a world-class technology hub, backed by £7m in funding.

8. John Edwards, UK information commissioner

New Zealand’s former privacy commissioner John Edwards was selected by the UK government to succeed Elizabeth Denham as information commissioner when she stepped down from the post in October 2021. Edwards, who served two five-year terms in New Zealand, was appointed to that post in 2014 and oversaw the introduction of the country’s 2020 Privacy Act. He was also chairman of the Global Privacy Assembly – previously the International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners – from 2014 to 2017.

9. Brent Hoberman, entrepreneur; chair of Founders Factory and Founders Forum

Serial entrepreneur Brent Hoberman is the chairman and co-founder of Founders Factory, a London-based accelerator and incubator. He is also a non-executive director and co-founder of Made.com, and has sat on the board of several companies, including EasyCar and Shazam. In 1998, he co-founded Lastminute.com together with Martha Lane Fox.           

10. Matt Clifford, chairman, Advanced Research and Invention Agency

Matt Clifford is the chair of the Advanced Research and Invention Agency, which was set up by the government in February 2021 to support high-risk research that has the potential to make a high impact on society. Clifford is also the co-founder and CEO of Entrepreneur First, a pre-seed investor in deep technology startups.

Top five female tech leaders

  1. Michelle Donelan/Chloe Smith, secretary of state for science, innovation and technology, Department for Science, Innovation and Technology.
  2. Lindy Cameron, CEO, National Cyber Security Centre.
  3. Megan Lee Devlin, CEO, Central Digital and Data Office.
  4. Clare Barclay, CEO, Microsoft UK.
  5. Sonia Patel, system CIO, NHS England.

11. Sonia Patel, system CIO, NHS England

In her role as system CIO at NHS England, Sonia Patel is responsible for leading on levelling up digital infrastructure and literacy for NHS and social care. She was previously the CIO at NHSX, and has also been the CIO at several NHS trusts during her career.

12. Mike Potter, chief digital officer, UK government

Mike Potter was appointed as the government chief digital officer in July 2022, and is due to take up the post shortly. The role will be the most senior digital, data and technology leader in UK government. Most recently, Potter was the interim executive director for digital transformation and group chief information officer at Thames Water. He previously held several positions within government, including director of EU exit capability at the Cabinet Office and Future Border System programme director at HM Revenue & Customs.

13. Richard Corbridge, CDIO, DWP

Richard Corbridge joined the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) as its chief digital and information officer in April 2023, where he is responsible for managing an annual budget of £1.4bn, driving the department’s digital ambitions. He joined DWP from Boots where he held several roles, most recently as its CIO.

14. Nicola Hodson, CEO for UK&I, IBM; TechUK deputy president 

Nicola Hodson joined IBM in January 2023 as its UK and Ireland CEO. Prior to joining IBM, Hodson spent 14 years at Microsoft in various roles, most recently as vice-president of global sales, marketing and ops for field transformation. She is also the deputy president of TechUK.

15. Tabitha Goldstaub, co-founder, CognitionX; chair of government’s AI Council

Tabitha Goldstaub is the co-founder of CognitionX, a platform and network that helps to build and accelerate the adoption of AI and data-driven systems. She is a serial entrepreneur, having co-founded several businesses, and has also worked with organisations such as Founders4Schools and Teens in AI, and is the chair of the government’s AI Council.

16. Anne Keast-Butler, director, GCHQ

Anne Keast-Butler joined GCHQ as its director in May 2023, becoming the first woman to lead the organisation, succeeding Jeremy Fleming. Prior to joining GCHQ, Keast-Butler served as the MI5 deputy director general, and has a long history as an intelligence expert. In her role at MI5, Keast-Butler led on MI5’s operational, investigative and protective security work, including the agency’s response to Russia’s war on Ukraine. She has also previously spent time seconded to GCHQ as head of counter-terrorism and serious organised crime.

17. Indro Mukerjee, CEO, Innovate UK

Indro Mukerjee joined Innovate UK as its CEO in May 2021. Prior to joining the UK’s innovation agency, he co-founded the UK Electronics Skills Foundation where he served as a non-executive chairman for 11 years. Mukerjee has a degree in engineering science from the University of Oxford and is a graduate of the Wharton Advanced Management Program.

18. George Freeman, minister for science, research and innovation, Department for Science, Innovation and Technology

George Freeman was appointed as a minister in the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology on 7 February 2023, but previously held the same role at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. His responsibilities include science and research and the associated agencies UK Research and Innovation and the Advanced Research and Invention Agency, as well as the Office for Artificial Intelligence. He was previously a minister in the Department for Transport.

19. Philip Jansen, CEO, BT

Philip Jansen became CEO of BT in 2019, replacing long-term chief executive Gavin Patterson. Jansen was in charge of Worldpay from 2013, overseeing both its 2015 flotation and a merger with e-commerce firm Vantiv. Before that, he spent time in the catering trade at Brakes and Sodexo Group, as well as a spell managing the consumer operations of Telewest, a predecessor of Virgin Media.

20. Russ Shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates and Global Tech Advocates

Russ Shaw founded Tech London Advocates in April 2013 as a private sector group promoting London’s technology sector and connecting startups with enterprises. He has founded similar organisations under the Global Tech Advocates banner in 30 locations worldwide, including six in the UK. He is also a co-founding partner of London Tech Week.

21. Rachel Dunscombe, co-chair, OpenEHR; member, UK government AI Council; visiting professor, Imperial College London 

Rachel Dunscombe is a veteran in digital healthcare and has held several positions in the NHS and industry over the years, including CEO of the NHS Digital Academy. She is also co-chair of OpenEHR, and serves on the government’s AI Council.

22. Paul Scully, minister for tech and the digital economy, Department for Science, Innovation and Technology

Paul Scully was appointed minister for technology and the digital economy in February 2023. He also holds the role of minister for London. In his role as technology minister, he is responsible for online safety, technology policy, digital identity policy and the government’s semiconductor strategy.

23. Charles Forte, CIO, Ministry of Defence

Charles Forte became CIO at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in January 2018. Before taking on the role at the MoD, Forte spent six months as interim CIO at Thames Water. Previously, he was CEO of group IT services at Prudential from March 2015 to the end of 2016, and before that, deputy group CIO and CIO of global operations at BP – as well as spending time as an independent consultant.

24. Julian David, CEO, TechUK

Julian David is the CEO of technology trade association TechUK. He was appointed as the director general of Intellect in March 2012 and led its transformation to TechUK in November 2013. Julian has spent more than 30 years in the technology industry, mostly working for IBM in various roles, including vice-president for small and medium business in the UK, Ireland, Netherlands and Africa and then for five years as vice-president for public sector in the UK, Ireland and South Africa.

25. Alistair Forbes, CEO, Scottish Tech Army

Tech entrepreneur Alistair Forbes founded the Scottish Tech Army as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic, with the aim of using it as a platform to contribute to the challenges the health crisis created. Working with recruitment agencies, the initiative aims to identify IT volunteers whose skills can be used to support public sector organisations that are developing digital projects to help tackle the outbreak of the virus and the management of the recovery process.

26. Gill Whitehead, group director, online safety, Ofcom

The Digital Regulation Cooperation Forum – which consists of the Competition and Markets Authority, the Financial Conduct Authority, the Information Commissioner’s Office and Ofcom – was formed in July 2020 to strengthen the working relationships between the watchdogs and establish a coordinated regulatory approach to the UK’s digital services and economy. Appointed CEO in November 2021, Gill Whitehead will play a key role in emerging UK regulation of the online world.

27. Dame Wendy Hall, professor of computer science at University of Southampton, UK’s AI skills champion

Wendy Hall holds several positions at the University of Southampton, including professor of computer science and associate vice-president (international engagement), and is an executive director of the university’s Web Science Institute. Hall was named a Dame CBE in 2009, and is a fellow of the Royal Society.

28. Adrian Joseph, chief data and AI officer, BT Group

Adrian Joseph joined BT three years ago, where he leads a large team, working across data and artificial intelligence (AI). Prior to taking on the role at BT, Joseph was a partner at Ernst & Young, where he was the UK financial services head of AI.

29. Sarah Cardell, CEO, Competition and Markets Authority

Sarah Cardell was appointed the CEO of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in December 2022, but held the role as an interim since July 2022. Prior to being named CEO, Cardell was general council at the authority for eight years. The CMA is taking an increasing interest in the tech sector, not least in a recent decision to block Microsoft's $68bn acquisition of video game giant Activision Blizzard, and an investigation into emerging AI markets.

30. Zahra Bahrololoumi, CEO, Salesforce UK

Zahra Bahrololoumi was appointed Salesforce UK and Ireland CEO in November 2020, and joined in March 2021 to lead the company’s operations in both markets. She came to Salesforce from Accenture, where she had been leading its technology practice for UK and Ireland.

Top 5 digital leaders in the devolved nations:

  1. Mark Logan, chief entrepreneurial adviser to Scottish government.
  2. Alistair Forbes, CEO, Scottish Tech Army.
  3. Geoff Huggins, digital director, Scottish Government.
  4. Roger Halliday, CEO, Research Data Scotland.
  5. Helen Thomas, CEO, Digital Health and Care Wales.

31. Rene Haas, CEO, ARM Holdings

ARM announced in February 2022 that it had appointed 35-year semiconductor industry leader Rene Haas as chief executive, succeeding Simon Segars, who stepped down after 30 years with the company. Haas was previously president of the ARM IP Products Group since 2017, having joined the firm in 2013.

32. Helen Kelisky, managing director for Google Cloud, UK&I

In her role as managing director for Google Cloud, UK&I, Helen Kelisky oversees the business and its sales strategy across the region. As part of her role, she leads development of Google Cloud’s go-to-market business and sales operations, working with her team to support customers on their digital transformation journeys.

33. Tanuja Randery, EMEA managing director, Amazon Web Services

A former partner at McKinsey, Tanuja Randery took over Amazon Web Services in EMEA in August 2021. She has previously been UK president of Schneider Electric, president of strategy, marketing and transformation at BT Global Services, and managing director at Colt. She has also spent time working in private equity for Apax Partners. She is currently a non-executive director at London First, the business campaign group for the capital city.

34. Guus Dekkers, CTO, Tesco

Guus Dekkers has been the CTO of Tesco since 2018, and is responsible for all consumer-facing and enterprise technologies, across online, stores and the supply chain. During the Covid-19 pandemic, his technology team worked to handle a huge increase in online shopping and deliveries.

35. Sheila Flavell, COO, FDM Group; president, TechUK

A member of the tech sector for 30 years, Sheila Flavell was appointed chief operating officer of IT services firm FDM Group in 2008, and is an executive board director of the firm where she spearheads FDM’s Global Women in Tech campaign and FDM’s Getting Back to Business programme, aimed at providing opportunities for returners to work. She is current president of TechUK, a council member for the Digital Skills Council, and is frequently called to advise government committees on various issues, especially around the digital skills gap.

36. Franziska Bell, senior vice-president of digital technology, BP

Franziska Bell is BP’s chief technology officer where she leads on software and platform engineering, data science, AI, data science, data engineering, data management, UX research, design and change management. Prior to joining BP, Bell spent several years as director for data science at Uber.

37. Julia Lopez/John Whittingdale, minister of state for data and digital infrastructure, Department of Science, Innovation and Technology

Julia Lopez was appointed minister of state in the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology on 7 March 2023, prior to which she was minister of state in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, responsible for media, data and digital infrastructure. Lopez is currently on maternity leave. While she is on leave, John Whittingdale is the current post holder. He was previously the minister of state for media and data in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

38. James Matthews, CEO, Ocado Technology

James Matthews spent several years with the online supermarket before becoming CEO of Ocado Technology in April 2018. Since taking on the role, Matthews has worked to develop Ocado Technology into a leading UK technology company, helped drive the Ocado Smart Platform and mature the company’s technology. He heads up a team of more than 2,000 technologists.

39. Simon Bourne, chief digital, data and technology officer, Home Office

Simon Bourne became the Home Office CDDTO in February 2021, where he launched its three-year digital data and technology strategy in July the same year. Prior to joining the Home Office, Bourne held the role of CIO at the Co-operative Group.

40. Cindy Rose, president, Microsoft Western Europe

Cindy Rose was appointed the president of Western Europe for Microsoft in 2022, having served as the CEO of Microsoft UK since 2016, where she was responsible for the firm’s product, service and support offering across the region. In 2021, she was added to the Computer Weekly women in technology Hall of Fame.

Top 10 IT leaders across public and private sector

1. Daljit Rehal, chief digital and information officer, HM Revenue and Customs.

2. Sonia Patel, system CIO, NHS England.

3. Mike Potter, chief digital officer, UK government.

4. Richard Corbridge, CDIO, DWP.

5. Charles Forte, CIO, Ministry of Defence.

6. Guus Dekkers, CTO, Tesco.

7. Franziska Bell, SVP digital technology, BP.

8. Simon Bourne, chief digital, data and technology officer, Home Office.

9. Geoff Huggins, digital director, Scottish government.

10. Bella Abrams, director of IT, University of Sheffield.

41. Geoff Huggins, digital director, Scottish government

Geoff Huggins was appointed to lead the digital team in the Scottish government in July 2021, succeeding Colin Cook. He has held a number of senior digital government roles in Scotland, including director, digital third sector transformation, director of NDS Scotland – a directorate of NHS Education for Scotland – and director of health and social care integration.

42. Bella Abrams, director of IT, University of Sheffield

Bella Abrams joined the University of Sheffield as director of IT in 2019. She has 19 years’ experience working in IT in the public and private education sector. Most recently, she was CIO at Sheffield College and held a number of roles developing and delivering online education and assessment services.

43. Roger Halliday, CEO, Research Data Scotland

Roger Halliday joined Research Data Scotland as its CEO in April 2020. The organisation aims to improve well-being and public health by enabling new insights and research through secure access to and linkage of data around a person, place or business. He was previously the Scottish government’s chief statistician.

44. Helen Thomas, CEO, Digital Health and Care Wales

Helen Thomas joined Digital Health and Care Wales as CEO in 2021, prior to spending a year as the interim director of the NHS Wales Informatics Service where she led the organisation’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Digital Health and Care Wales aims to enable digital transformation within the NHS in Wales, and deliver high-quality technology and data products and services.

45. Andy McLintock, CDIO, Social Security Scotland

Andy McClintock is the chief digital information officer at Social Security Scotland, where he is responsible for leading the design, digital transformation, build and delivery of digital services for social security in Scotland.

46. Tom Read, CEO, Government Digital Service

Tom Read was appointed CEO of the Government Digital Service (GDS) in 2021, where he is at the helm of government technology. Prior to this, Read was Ministry of Justice chief digital information officer for several years, where he undertook several large technology transformation projects.

47. Ilan Gur, CEO, Advanced Research and Invention Agency

Ilan Gur is CEO of the Advanced Research and Invention Agency, which was set up by the government in February 2021 and aims to support high-risk research that has the potential to make a high impact on society. Gur also has a PhD in materials science and engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, was founder and CEO of non-profit organisation Activate, a US organisation that supports scientists and engineers bringing research to market.

48. Euan Blair, CEO, Multiverse 

Euan Blair founded tech startup Multiverse in 2016. The company aims to create a diverse group of future leaders by building an alternative to university and corporate training. The edtech startup delivers apprenticeships across the technology sector and helps businesses embrace digital transformation.

49. Poppy Gustafsson, CEO, Darktrace

Poppy Gustafsson studied mathematics at Sheffield University, moving on to become an assistant manager at Deloitte, then a fund accountant at Amadeus Capital Partners. She joined Darktrace as chief financial officer in 2013, then spent some time as the chief operating officer before becoming CEO in 2016. She was selected as the Computer Weekly Most Influential Woman in UK IT in 2021, and led the flotation of Darktrace in April 2021.

50. Debbie Forster, CEO, Tech Talent Charter

Debbie Forster is an award-winning diversity, tech, and education advocate and CEO of the Tech Talent Charter, an industry-led membership group of over 700 signatories working to improve diversity and inclusion in the tech ecosystem. She received an MBE in 2017 for services to digital technology and was named 2019’s Most Influential Woman in UK IT by Computer Weekly.

Judging the UKtech50

The judging panel was chosen to represent different perspectives in IT, so each individual acted both as an impartial and expert judge, as well as an advocate for their area of interest. The judges were:

  • Rhona Carmichael, regional managing director at Harvey Nash UK North & Ireland.
  • Matthew Evans, director of markets at TechUK.
  • Andy Heyes, UK South managing director at Harvey Nash.
  • Joanna Poplawska, CEO at CITF, the collaboration, innovation and technology forum.
  • Adam Thilthorpe, director for professionalism at BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT.

Our judging panel chose the top 50 candidates based on the following criteria:

  • Influence: What authority or ability does the person have – either through their personal position or the role they hold – to personally influence the development of UK technology, or to influence others in positions of authority?
  • Achievements: What has the person achieved in the past 12 months to help the development of UK technology?
  • Profile: Is the person recognised as a role model for aspiring leaders? How widely are they acknowledged by their peers as an authority and influence on UK tech?
  • Leadership: Does the person demonstrate the skills and experience necessary to be seen as a leader in the development of the tech community in the UK? Do they have a leadership role and does that help them develop the role of technology in the UK?
  • Potential: How likely is it that the person will have a significant impact on UK tech in the next 12 months? Will their authority and responsibility grow?

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