A prominent figure in the healthcare, education and the charity sectors has been appointed to lead one of Norwich's major plant and crop science institutes.

Sir Thomas Hughes-Hallett has been announced as the next chairman of the governing council at the John Innes Centre, on the Norwich Research Park.

Recently retired after seven years as chairman of the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Sir Thomas is co-founder and chairman of the Marshall Institute for Philanthropy and Social Entrepreneurship at the London School of Economics, and founder of the charity Helpforce.

He has also chaired the Institute for Global Health at Imperial College and been chief executive of the Marie Curie cancer charity.

He will start his new position in September, taking over from interim chair Dr Deborah Keith.

His arrival coincides with an important time for the John Innes Centre, as it takes forward ambitious plans to deliver Healthy Plants, Healthy People, Healthy Planet (HP3) – a joint scientific vision with The Sainsbury Laboratory.

In June, the two organisations were awarded £1m to progress plans for a world-leading plant and microbial research hub on the Norwich Research Park, and they are now working with funding body BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council) to secure funding for new research facilities.

Sir Thomas said: “I am excited and privileged to take on this role at the John Innes Centre – an ambitious, world class organisation for which I have acquired the greatest admiration.

"It has a wonderful history of global leadership in plant and microbial science, and an exciting future delivering the Healthy Plants, Healthy People, Healthy Planet vision.

“I look forward to working with Prof Sanders and the governing council as well as the whole team at the John Innes Centre, to ensure the organisation continues to grow and deliver its excellent and impactful research securing a safer, healthier and more sustainable future for all of us.”

Prof Dale Sanders, director of the John Innes Centre, said: “We are delighted to welcome Sir Thomas to this role at the John Innes Centre.

"He is a highly effective leader with experience of innovative organisations and brings a passion for supporting organisations to think creatively about their futures."