John French

Professor John French

BSc PhD

A leader in sustainable development with a background in the biological sciences and institutional academic development, John is active in the field of low carbon innovation, the built environment and architecture. He has significant experience in major university capital and grant funded projects and venture investment to support a transition to a zero carbon economy as well as delivering and managing enterprise and innovation networks for university based knowledge transfer.

John French

With a background in BSc Applied Biology (London University) and Applied Plant Sciences (PhD, University of Cambridge, Wolfson College) Johne has pioneered bio-based innovation and the development of crop-based alternatives to petrochemicals. His academic career has spanned six universities and he has held the roles of Dean of Environmental and Natural Systems Sciences and Head of Academic Development.

Responsible for one of the first Masters degrees in Environmental Biology validated by Liverpool University in 1991 he has consistently supported and taught students in the natural sciences and sustainable development throughout his teaching career including through his current role at CISL contributing to the Interdisciplinary Built Environment (IDBE) and Sustainable Development MSt courses. He has significant experience in academic standards through the quality assurance and validation of subject based programmes and institutions through his work with the Open University validation and accreditation committee.

He held the role of CEO of the Adapt Low Carbon Group at the University of East Anglia between until 2018 and during that time delivered the InCrops Enterprise Hub, the multi-award winning exemplary low carbon building (The Enterprise Centre) and successfully delivered the Low Carbon Innovation Fund. He holds a Chair in Enterprise and Sustainability at the UEA.

John's academic interests have become more interdisciplinary over time and his work now spans art, architecture and sustainable development. He holds a number of roles as a charity trustee, is active in biological conservation and heritage conservation. He is involved with the transformation of the higher education sector through his work with the Environmental Association of Universities and Colleges, addressing the global challenges associated with climate change, economic transformation and social inequality through the collective effort of UK universities and colleges. He is  also a member of the Institute of Directors with an interest in best practice and the role of non-executive directors in company governance.

He holds the following positions:

  • Executive Director, Cambridge University Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)
  • Professorial Fellow, The University of East Anglia, Norwich
  • Innovation Advisor, The University of the Arts London, London College of Fashion
  • Board Member and Trustee, The Environmental Association of Universities and Colleges (EAUC)
  • Chairman and Trustee of the Sudbury Society
  • Trustee of the Islay Natural History Society
  • Board Member, East of England China Forum

Research interests

Now that he has returned to Cambridge and joined CISL, John's principal area of work is the Sustainability Business Hub and Accelerator that he is leading as a new global leadership project at the University of Cambridge as well as leading the development of the zero carbon Entopia Building for CISL.

John is active in outreach engagement and development and has established international collaborations to support this work and fund raising for transformational projects in sustainable development at the University. His current research addresses climate change and the built environment, decarbonisation, embodied energy and life cycle analysis including the circular economy and the application of new technology innovation to address these areas of priority to society.