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Professor Sir John V McCanny BSc PhD DSc DEng (Honoris Causa)


Regius Professor Emeritus of Electronics and Computer Engineering, Queen’s University Belfast (retired 2017)

Professor Sir John McCanny is an international authority on special purpose silicon architectures for Digital Signal and Video Processing and Cryptography. He has published 5 research books, 360 peer reviewed research papers and holds over 20 patents. He was appointed Regius Professor in Electronics and Computer Engineering at Queen’s University Belfast in 2016.

He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), the Irish Academy of Engineering, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), the Institute of Physics and Engineers Ireland. He is also a Member of the Royal Irish Academy.

His many honours and awards include a CBE (2002), a UK Royal Academy of Engineering Silver Medal (1996), an IEEE Millennium Medal, the Royal Dublin Society/Irish Times Boyle medal (2004), the IET’s Faraday medal (2006 - its highest honour), the Royal Irish Academy’s Cunningham medal (2011- its highest honour) and the Irish Academy of Engineering Parson’s medal (2018 –its highest honour).

He co-founded two successful high technology companies based on the work of his research teams, Amphion Semiconductor Ltd. – later acquired by Conexant (US), then NXP, then Entropic - and Audio Processing Technology Ltd – acquired, in 2011, by Cambridge Silicon Radio, in turn acquired by Qualcomm (US), in 2015. He was also a non-executive Director (10 years) of Titan IC Systems, a QUB spin-off company. Titan was acquired by Silicon Valley company, Nvidia, in 2019.

Professor McCanny was responsible, within Queen’s University, for developing the vision that led to the creation of the Northern Ireland Science Park (now Catalyst Inc) and its £37M ECIT research flagship (https://www.qub.ac.uk/ecit/), where he was Director from 2002 to 2017. In 2002, the Science Park was a “brownfield site”. Today 200 high technology companies are located there, employing around 3000 people.

He also led the initiative that, in 2009, created the £30M Centre for Secure Information Technology, (https://www.qub.ac.uk/ecit/CSIT/). CSIT, based at ECIT, was funded by EPSRC, InnovateUK, InvestNI and industry. It now has over 90 people and is the UK’s Innovation and Knowledge Centre for Cybersecurity. In the past 13 years, CSIT has played a key role in the creation of 1,800 additional new high-value jobs, in effect creating a new cybersecurity business cluster in Northern Ireland, involving 40+ companies. QUB/CSIT was awarded Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in 2015.

Professor McCanny was a Member of Council of the Royal Academy of Engineering between 2009 and 2012 and a Member of Council of the Royal Irish Academy between 2013 and 2014. He also was a member of the Royal Academy of Engineering Dowling review, whose influential report on business-university collaboration was published in 2015. From 2017 to 2021 he was a member of the Academy’s MacRobert Award judging panel. This is the UK’s most prestigious national prize for Engineering Business Innovation. He also served on the steering group of the Irish Academy of Engineering’s Innovation Committee whose report “Innovating for Growth” was published in 2019.

He has served on numerous Royal Society committees including, on three separate occasions (2004-2006; 2011-2014; 2021-24), its Sectional Committee 4 that elects Fellows in Engineering, chairing this committee in 2005 and 2006. He co-chaired the Royal Society Policy Steering Group on Cybersecurity leading to the publication of its report "Progress and Research in Cybersecurity" in July 2016. Many of its recommendations have since informed EU policy in this area.

He is currently a member of the Royal Society’s Science, Industry and translation Committee and its Community of Interest Committee. The latter is developing policies for increasing R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP.

From 2018 to 2020 he chaired the New York Academy of Sciences, Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists in the UK. This seeks to identify, at an early age, young scientists and engineers who in future years might become Noble Prize winners, or equivalent.

Professor McCanny currently chairs the Industrial Advisory Board for the UK’s National Robotarium, based at Heriot Watt University in Scotland. He was previously a member of the international advisory board of the German Excellence Centre on “Ultra-High-Speed Mobile Information and Communication” at the University of Aachen (2007 and 2012) and was a member of the board of Ireland’s Tyndall National Institute (2004 -2011). 

Professor McCanny holds a BSc degree in Physics from the University of Manchester (1973), a PhD in Physics from the University of Ulster (1978), a DSc in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Queen’s University Belfast (1998) and a Doctor of Engineering Degree (Honoris Causa) from Heriot Watt University (2019).

He was awarded a Knighthood in the 2017 New Year's Honours list for services to Higher Education and Economic Development.



Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure


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