LONDON, UK - Mary Ritter, Chief Executive Officer of Europe's main climate innovation initiative Climate-KIC, was presented with an OBE for services to scientific research and innovation by Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace this week (12 February 2014).
"I am highly honoured and absolutely thrilled," said Mary Ritter. "While the OBE is a personal award, it is also a recognition of all those who have worked with me throughout my scientific research career, especially my colleagues in Climate-KIC, and who made it all possible."
Headquartered in London, the EU's largest public-private climate innovation partnership is focused on practical short- and long-term solutions for mitigating and adapting to climate change.
"It is a great honour to be recognised for my contribution, alongside that of the whole Climate-KIC team, to one of the major challenges facing mankind," Ritter said.
The long-planned ceremony coincided with one of the worst storms to hit the UK so far this winter, which has caused large areas of England and Wales to be flooded and has put tens of thousands of homes without power.
"My thoughts go out to the people dealing with the dreadful effects of the extreme weather across the UK today," Ritter said, "The recent series of extreme weather situations highlight the need for us to work on innovations to adapt to a changing climate and to militate against further climate change."
The Queen appoints new members of the Order of the British Empire, on the advice of the UK government. Professor Ritter was appointed Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.
In the three years that Mary Ritter has been at the helm, Climate-KIC's public-private partnership has grown from a membership of 15 organisations with a €6 million budget, to a community of over 200 partners across Europe from business, academia and the public sector, with a budget of more than €70 million for 2014 and a mission to mitigate and adapt to climate change while creating sustainable growth and jobs.
"The citation is for 'Services to Scientific Research and Innovation' and in the context of innovation, although I have been a serial entrepreneur within the academic context, I am particularly proud of my most recent, and biggest, challenge - leading Climate-KIC," said Ritter.
Before joining Climate-KIC, Professor Ritter's research focused on how the immune system develops in the fetus and how it declines in elderly people. She also developed new research products, and established new postgraduate programmes at Imperial College London.
Professor Ritter launched the College's first Graduate School and played a key role in the establishment of the joint Imperial-NTU Lee Kong Chian medical school in Singapore. As Pro-Rector, she oversaw Postgraduate Affairs at Imperial from 2004 to 2007 and International Affairs from 2005 to 2011.
Climate-KIC operates through centres across Europe to support start-up companies, to bring together partners on innovation projects and to educate students to develop products and services that help mitigate and adapt to climate change.
The initiative consists of over 200 large companies, small and medium sized enterprises, academic institutions and the public sector, including partners such as Bayer, Imperial College London, KLM, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, ETH Zurich and GDF Suez.
Climate-KIC is one of the first three Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) created in 2010 by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), the EU body tasked with creating sustainable European growth while dealing with the global challenges of our time.
Climate-KIC has centres in France, Germany, The Netherlands, Switzerland, the UK and a Nordic centre in Denmark.
The organisation is also represented in the European regions of Valencia, Spain; Central Hungary; Emilia Romagna, Italy; Lower Silesia, Poland; Hessen, Germany and the West Midlands in the UK.
Though its regional outreach programme, Climate-KIC works with partners in Slovenia, Cork/Dublin, Ireland; Helsinki/Uusimaa, Finland; North Portugal (and Lisbon); South Moravia, Czech Republic and Timis, Romania.