Key figures in the UK scientific community have paid tribute to David Willetts who is stepping down as UK minister for universities and science, to be replaced by Greg Clark.

Mr Willetts resigned, reportedly on an amicable basis, after four years in the post where he earned a reputation as a thoughtful champion for science. Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, said “I always found him to be refreshingly open in his approach, willing to listen, robust in the discussions but always willing to engage in the key issues in a non-partisan way. His common sense and clear commitment to research and higher education has been a breath of fresh air”.

Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, said that Mr Willetts, who is also stepping down as an MP at the next election, has been “an outstanding science minister, respected not only in the UK but throughout the world. He has kept science centre-stage in the Cabinet and has helped position science at the forefront of UK industrial strategy and economic recovery”.

Steve Bates chief executive of the UK BioIndustry Association, said that Mr Willetts had truly understood what it takes “to turn the UK’s fantastic science into the jobs, health and wealth the UK needs in the coming decades”.

Stephen Whitehead, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said “I would like to express my appreciation for all that David Willetts has done to champion our sector over the last four years”. He added that “through his work on the Strategy for UK Life Sciences and support for biopharmaceutical companies, he has been instrumental in helping establish the UK as a global research centre”.
Mr Whitehead went on to congratulate Mr Clark (pictured) and George Freeman who has been appointed as minister for life sciences, a joint appointment across the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department of Health. He said the latter move “is welcome and shows that the government understands the importance of health and science policy in supporting the life sciences sector in the UK”.

Mr Clark was appointed minister for cities in July 2011, a post he is keeping, and financial secretary to the Treasury in September 2012. Before entering politics, he worked for the Boston Consulting Group and the BBC.