Former Telefonica bigwig Mike Short to join Department for International Trade

Telecoms exec to take Whitehall chief scientist post 

Short, who has four decades of telecoms experience, will take up his new post in Whitehall next month  Credit: Fotolia

The Department for International Trade has named Dr Mike Short, a former senior figure at the communications firm Telefonica, as the department’s first chief scientific adviser. 

Short, who takes up the post next month, will lead the science and engineering profession in the department and ensure its policy is informed by the best science, engineering and technical advice. He will also advise on the technical aspects of future trade deals as DIT looks to create new arrangements following Brexit, and will work with the UK’s research, development and academic communities to boost scientific and engineering exports.

Short has over 40 years’ experience in electronics and telecommunications and served as vice president of Telefonica, the parent company of the O2 mobile phone network, for 17 years to December 2016. In this post, Short managed the launch of 2G (GSM) and 3G mobile technologies in the UK, and led research and development for Telefonica Europe.

His career also includes the promotion of international technical standards in mobile technology, and he is also a former Chairman of the Global GSM Association, the UK Mobile Data Association, and president of the Institution of Engineering and Technology. 

He is currently a visiting professor at the universities of Surrey, Coventry, Leeds and Lancaster, where in recent years he has led the development on collaborations in areas such as smart cities, digital healthcare, cybersecurity and driverless vehicles.

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Short said that joining the department during a period of such great global opportunity as the UK prepares to leave the European Union in 2019 was “tremendously exciting”.

“I look forward to working closely with businesses, research institutions and industry to drive UK economic growth, through a trade policy which champions the best in scientific research and innovation,” he added.

Welcoming the appointment, DIT permanent secretary, Antonia Romeo said he brought “an impressive breadth of technical and commercial expertise to the department”.

She added: “The UK’s science, technology and engineering sectors generate billions in exports and inward investment per year, and I look forward to working closely with Dr Short in the promotion of our outstanding scientific industries across the globe.”

International trade secretary, Dr Liam Fox added that the appointment would help DIT create and deliver a world class trade policy.

“An industry leader, Dr Short’s many decades of experience in technology, innovation and public policy will ensure that cutting-edge scientific and technical know-how is firmly at the core of DIT’s work,” he added.

Short (pictured right) is the latest senior appointment to the department since it was formed in June 2016.

Antonia Romeo, formerly the UK’s consul-general in New York, took up the post of permanent secretary in March, while the department has also made a number of other key hires in recent months.

These include naming Crawford Falconer, an experienced trade negotiator who is a New Zealand/UK dual-national, as second permanent secretary and chief trade advisor tasked with reaching agreements across the globe following Brexit. He had held a number of posts including as New Zealand’s ambassador to the World Trade Organisation and vice minister for international trade and foreign affairs.

In an answer to a parliamentary question in August, then DIT minister Lord Price said the department had paid recruitment companies £1.15m to find senior staff since last July.

Sam Trendall

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