Commemorating the life and work of Geoff Oldham, CBE

Published on 20 October 2017

It is with deep regret and sadness that we share the news that Professor Geoff Oldham (age 88) passed away on Sunday 1 October 2017.

Geoff’s work on science and technology policy and developing countries is unparalleled. Among his extraordinary achievements, Geoff Oldham co-founded SPRU (the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex) just over 50 years ago in 1966. Geoff served as SPRU’s Deputy Director before becoming Director in 1982, a post he held until 1993. During this time, he was a key figure in the SPRU ‘Developing Countries Group’, carrying out pioneering work and playing a pivotal role in establishing policy research about science and technology in developing country contexts. Since then SPRU has grown to become an internationally recognised centre of interdisciplinary research on science, technology and innovation policy.

Geoff’s approach and his emphasis on ‘enhancing poor countries’ capacities to select, acquire and create ‘their own’ technologies, know-how and science’ led to a deep collaboration with the IDS also established at Sussex in 1966. He served on our academic board until his retirement and facilitated a wide range of projects between SPRU and IDS. These include the formulation of the influential Sussex Manifesto on Science and Technology for Developing Countries during the Second Development Decade of the UN (1970).

IDS Director, Melissa Leach said: “Geoff was an unparalleled champion of the role of science and technology in development – while bringing a deeply people-centred approach. This shone through in our collaborations, including with the STEPS Centre’s Innovation, Sustainability, Development: A New Manifesto, and in work on gender and technology – for which he was a tireless advocate. With his immense warmth, commitment and generosity of spirit, Geoff was always a pleasure to work with. We will miss him immensely”.

We extend our sincere condolences to his family and close friends.

More information about Geoff’s life and work are detailed on SPRU’s website where friends are invited to contribute their own personal message in tribute to Geoff.

Key contacts

Image of Carol Smithyes

Carol Smithyes

Senior Communications and Marketing Officer


+44 (0)1273 915638