Statement from the Chairman

A statement from Sir Richard Sykes FRS, Chairman of the Royal Institution, regarding the charity’s plans to remove its outstanding debt.

Tim Mitchell


For over 200 years the Royal Institution has been at the forefront of public engagement with science and our mission is to encourage people to think more deeply about the wonders and applications of science. Through our educational and heritage programmes we inspire the next generation to become actively involved in scientific discovery and to think critically about the world.

There is much to celebrate at the Ri as our diverse programme of public engagement activities for all ages goes from strength to strength.  Our membership remains at a historic high of around 5,000 members; our filmmaking expertise via the Ri Channel is now internationally recognised through a 2014 European Science TV and New Media Award; our activities and resources are more accessible than ever with the launch of new digital projects such as our ExpeRimental films which support parents to do science at home with their children and have been watched more than 400,000 times; we have expanded existing programmes for young people including our hands-on Masterclasses which encompass Computer Science alongside Mathematics and Engineering and stretch from Aberdeen to Jersey; and our Science Learning team can now take our much loved science shows out of London and in to schools and community audiences around the country.

The heritage programme of the Ri includes research on various aspects of its history, currently significant projects on Humphry Davy, John Tyndall and George Porter, obtaining grants to conserve items from the Collections and to purchase material within our accessioning policy, most recently a collection of 30 letters written by Michael Faraday.

At the May 2015 AGM Members were notified of these achievements, alongside plans to address the outstanding £2million debt. These are: 

  1. Reconfiguration of space within our building to allow for increased revenue funding from tenants and venue hire. Space currently occupied by the Ri Bar will be leased to a commercial tenant from early 2016 on a long-term basis, generating a significant source of income for the Ri. The Ri’s café and in-house catering service for events will continue.
  1. One-off sale of a small selection of books (85 lots) from the Ri’s Library Collection, all of which are classified as non-core heritage items. For reference, this proposal was agreed by the Trustees at their meeting on 15 September 2014 after a lengthy period of careful consideration. The Trustees then followed the processes required by Arts Council England (ACE) and the Museum Association’s Ethics Committee who commended the Ri for having followed established procedures and seeking their advice.

At the most recent Trustees meeting of 8 June 2015 it was agreed that the most appropriate course of action for this sale would be a one-off public auction through Christie’s. The decision to sell the books via a public auction was adopted to ensure market value and transparency in the process, in line with the Museum Association’s code of practice. The auction is scheduled to take place on 1 December.

The books were selected in line with our status as an ACE accredited organisation and the Ri’s heritage policies which state that we will only acquire material for our Collections (either through gift or purchase) that is of direct relevance to the Ri or to those who have worked or lived in the building. The list of books that will be put up for auction will be made available in November 2015 in line with the publication of Christie’s auction catalogue.

The Ri is committed to preserving and promoting our unique scientific legacy. We believe that taking these necessary steps will provide a strong foundation from which to safeguard our core heritage collection - the Faraday Museum and Archive Collection - and continue our vital work across all of our charitable programmes for the benefit of future generations.

Support us

I’d also like to take this opportunity to highlight the fact that, as an independent charity, our ongoing activities rely on finances raised through sponsorship, donations, grants, membership subscriptions and venue hire.  If you would like to find out more about the different ways you can support the Ri’s wide range of charitable activities, please contact


You can find more information about the Ri's governance, including the 2015 AGM minutes, here.

To view our Annual Accounts, please visit the Royal Institution section of the Charity Commission's website here. Please note we operate according to a 1 October to 30 September financial year.