Upon election by the Fellowship, Dr Lazar would serve a term of five years as President, succeeding Professor Sir Jim McDonald GBE FREng FRSE.
Lazar is a software engineer and business leader focused on combining technology and entrepreneurship to generate lasting positive impact. He is Chair of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, which aims to help young people realise their full potential through the power of computing and digital technologies.
In a statement, Lazar said: “I am thrilled and humbled to be considered for such an important role, and strongly endorse the key goals of the Academy’s mission. In particular, it is vital that we support young people from all backgrounds to gain access to the engineering and computing skills and training that will enable them to thrive, and help solve the huge challenges facing us.”
Lazar’s numerous career highlights include being the co-founder, general partner, and a limited partner at Enza Capital, which backs founders and teams using technology to solve large and meaningful problems across Africa. He also sits on the boards of multiple African technology companies and previously served as the Chair of What3words. Lazar was awarded a CBE for services to engineering in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in 2016.
Further careers highlights include joining Metaswitch Networks in 1987 as a software engineer and going on to become CEO in 2009 and then Chairman in 2015. He stepped down in 2016, after which Metaswitch was acquired by Microsoft in 2020.
Lazar was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2011 and chairs the Academy’s Enterprise Committee, which supports startups and scaleups across the UK and globally through the Enterprise Hub. He has also been a member of the Academy’s Education and Skills Committee and played an active role in developing the programme of study for England’s school Computer Science curriculum.
Lazar also led the programme development for the 2019 Global Grand Challenges Summit Engineering in an unpredictable world, which brought 900 engineers from across the world to London to address the challenges posed by disruptive technologies, climate change and providing resources for a growing world population. The summit, co-sponsored by the UK, US and Chinese Academies of Engineering, enabled international thought leaders and the next generation of engineers to debate and co-create solutions to some of the world’s most significant problems.
For the past seven years, he has been a judge and mentor for the Academy’s Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, which trains and backs early-stage African engineering companies. He has also spent many years working on tech-related non-profit initiatives in Africa, especially building “digital blacksmiths” and maker labs. He has been an active angel investor and technology start-up mentor in the UK and Africa, with over 40 individual pre-seed/seed investments.
He graduated from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar with an MSc in Computation and a DPhil in History, following an undergraduate degree in Computer Science at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.
Academy President Professor Sir Jim McDonald GBE FREng FRSE says: “I am delighted that John Lazar is our candidate to be the next President of the Royal Academy of Engineering. He is an outstanding leader and his deep understanding of digital systems, personal credibility as an engineer and entrepreneur, and commitment to equitable economic development around the world are exactly the attributes we need to help our Academy address the increasingly complex needs of our profession and society at this time.”