New year’s list honours tech best

Written by Julian Blake, Editor, DigitalAgenda

London chief digital officer Theo Blackwell, DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman and Code First Girls founder Amali de Alwis are among the UK tech leaders recognised in the queen’s 2019 new year’s honours list. Julian Blake reports.

Twiggy, Alastair Cook and Harry Kane – please step out from under the spotlight. It’s time for the innovators and backers of life-changing technology in the UK to celebrate their less-trumpeted recognition in the 2019 new year’s honours list.

The annual honours list “recognises the achievements and service of extraordinary people across the United Kingdom”, from all walks of life. This year’s list, published on 29 December, is 1,148 names long – and has a strong showing from those working on technology in business, academia and government.  

London’s first chief digital officer Theo Blackwell (pictured), receives an MBE for services to local government digital transformation. Blackwell, a former cabinet tech lead for Camden and Digital Leaders advisor, took up his role working under London mayor Sadiq Khan in 2017. He has driven a range of initiatives, including the tech-for-good civic innovation challenge.

DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman follows last year’s recognition of co-founder Demis Hassabis by picking up his own CBE this year. London-based DeepMind was acquired by Google in 2014 for $500m and in 2016 its AlphaGo program defeated a human master Go player. Suleyman is now a government advisor on artificial intelligence.

Code First Girls founder Amali de Alwis (pictured below) is recognised with an MBE for services to diversity and training in the technology industry. “What a way to end the year….very much an honour to fly to flag for @CodeFirstGirls and all those who help us do what we do to support diversity in tech,” she tweeted.

amali de alwisAmong others honoured from the UK tech startup community are Monzo and GoCardless founder Tom Blomfield and Ella’s Kitchen founder Paul Linley. Stephen Coleman, chief executive and co-founder of Edinburgh’s pioneering Codebase co-working hub, picks up an OBE.

UK information commissioner Elizabeth Denham – who regulates compliance with the EU’s general data protection regulation (GDPR) – receives a CBE for “protecting information”.

Cindy Rose, chief executive at Microsoft UK, receives an OBE for services to UK technology. Rose sits on the government’s digital economy council and is an advocates for women, diversity and improving digital skills.

Oxford Internet Institute and Alan Turing Institute director Helen Margetts has an OBE for services to social and political science. 

Scottish Government CIO Anne Moises, Cranfield professor Lynette Ryals, women in finance champion Jayne-Anne Gadhia, UtterBerry managing director Heba Bevan and campaigner Roger Whiteside are among others honoured this year.

The annual honours list is submitted to the queen by the Cabinet Office honours committee, with sub-committees including on science and technology vetting nominations twice a year.

Last year’s new year’s list included honours for CAST co-founder Annika Small and techUK president Jacqueline De Rojas.

Read the full 2019 new year’s honours list.

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