One of Pennell's biggest tasks in his new job will be to ensure that technology at the university, one of Britain's biggest with 40,000 students, works to support the delivery of the Manchester 2020 Vision, a plan to make the institution one of the world's top 25 research universities by 2020.
That vision has a number of specific IT goals, including providing a high-quality study environment and "a responsive, flexible, robust and secure infrastructure for all services, taking advantage of public and private cloud solutions."
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The plan also tasks Pennell and his team to support academic research through services relating to trends in scholarly publishing, bibliometrics and the storage, management and preservation of research outputs. They will be required to provide a sustained research data management infrastructure supporting the whole data life cycle according to researchers' needs as part of a wider strategy for e-infrastructure.
Sounds challenging, but Pennell has extensive experience in establishing and leading large IT organizations, plus he has a strong association with Manchester, where he graduated in mathematics. He was CIO of the Co-operative Group, also headquartered in Manchester, and director of technology for the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002. He also was a management consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Pennell most recently was chief information officer at the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, or LOCOG, which delivered the technology underpinning the last Olympics. On that project, his IT staff peaked at 6,000 people and involved 110,000 pieces of equipment, including 3,500 miles of cabling, 900 servers, 1,000 network and security devices, and 9,500 PCs.
Pennell's new employer, The University of Manchester, has existed in its current form only since 2004, when two much older institutions with roots back as far as 1824 merged to create it. The university's lineage includes 25 Nobel Laureates among past and present students and staff, the third-highest number of any single university in the U.K. It currently has four Nobel laureates on staff, more than any other British university.
Pennell's predecessor, Paul Harness, left in February to become director of information systems services at neighboring Lancaster University.