David Sainsbury read History and Psychology at King’s College, Cambridge (of which he is now an Honorary Fellow) and received an M.B.A. from the Columbia Graduate School of Business in New York in 1971.
He holds Honorary Doctorates from Cambridge (LLD 1997), Oxford, Manchester and Imperial College and is also an Honorary FREng (Honorary FEng 1994), Honorary FRS (2008) and Honorary FMedSci (2008).
Joining J Sainsbury plc in 1963, he was Finance Director 1973–1990, Deputy Chairman 1988 – 1992 and Chairman 1992–1998. David Sainsbury was created a Life Peer as Lord Sainsbury of Turville in October, 1997 and was Minister of Science and Innovation from July 1998 until November 2006, with responsibility for the Office of Science and Technology, Innovation, Space, the Bioscience and Chemical Industries, and the Patent Office.
Lord Sainsbury was a member of the Dockland Joint Committee from 1978 – 1981, a member of the Committee of Review of the Post Office (Carter Committee) from 1975 – 1977, a Trustee of the Social Democratic Party from 1982 – 1990, Chairman of the Governing Body of the London Business School from 1991 - 1998, a member of the IPPR Commission on Public Policy and British Business from 1995 – 1997, and he founded and chairs the Institute for Government.
The founder of the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, in 2003 he received, on behalf of the Sainsbury family, the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Philanthropy.
Lord Sainsbury is the author of two Fabian pamphlets 'Government and Industry: A New Partnership' and 'Science and Innovation Policies in a Global Economy' and is co-author, with Christopher Smallwood, of 'Wealth Creation and Jobs' published by the Public Policy Centre. In 2007 he produced a review of the Government’s science and innovation policies, 'The Race To The Top'.
Elected Chancellor of the University by the Senate in October 2011, he commenced in office on 16 October 2011 and was ceremonially installed as Chancellor in the Senate-House on 21 March 2012.