Sir Tim Bartel Smit
Areas of Interest
Environment and Agriculture
Honorary Doctor of Science, 2015
Sir Tim Smit KBE was born in Holland on 25 September 1954. He read Archaeology and Anthropology at Durham University. Sir Tim worked for ten years in the music industry as composer/producer in both rock music and opera. In 1987 Sir Tim moved to Cornwall he and John Nelson together ‘discovered’ and then restored the Lost Gardens of Heligan. Sir Tim remains a Director of the gardens to the present day.
Sir Tim is Executive Chairman, Eden Regeneration Ltd, and co-founder of the award-winning Eden Project near St Austell in Cornwall. Eden began as a dream in 1995 and opened its doors to the public in 2000, since when over 15 million people have come to see what was once a sterile pit turned into a cradle of life containing world-class horticulture and startling architecture symbolic of human endeavour. Eden has contributed over £1 billion into the Cornish economy. Eden is proud of its success in changing people’s perception of the potential for and the application of science, by communicating and interpreting scientific concepts through the use of art, drama and storytelling as well as living up to its mission to take a pivotal role in local regeneration. It demonstrates once and for all that sustainability is not about sandals and nut cutlets, it is about good business practice and the citizenship values of the future.
Sir Tim is a Trustee, Patron and Board Member of a number of statutory and voluntary bodies both locally and nationally. He has received a variety of national awards including The Royal Society of Arts Albert Medal. In 2002 he was awarded an Honorary CBE in the New Years Honours List and In January 2011 he was appointed an honorary Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE) by Her Majesty the Queen. This appointment was made substantive in June 2012 as he has become a British Citizen. He has received Honorary Doctorates and Fellowships from a number of universities. Sir Tim was voted ‘Great Briton of 2007’ in the Environment category of the Morgan Stanley Great Britons Awards.
In 2011 Sir Tim was given a special award at the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, which recognises the contribution of people who inspire others with their vision, leadership and achievement. Sir Tim has taken part in a quantity of television and radio programmes and has been the subject of ‘This is Your Life’ and a guest on ‘Desert Island Discs’. He is a regular speaker at conferences, dinners, awards ceremonies and other events. Sir Tim is the author of books about both Heligan and Eden and he has contributed to publications on a wide variety of subjects. He lives in Lostwithiel, Cornwall and in his free time he enjoys reading, film, music and art.
Sir Tim Smit KBE is an entrepreneur, author, educator, motivational speaker, social campaigner and co-founder of the Eden Project.
Born in The Netherlands, Sir Tim came to the UK as a young child, eventually studying Archaeology and Anthropology at Durham University. Becoming an archaeologist after graduating, it wasn’t long before his career took an unconventional turn, as he switched to the music industry. For the next ten years, he worked as a song-writer and producer in rock and pop, winning seven gold and platinum discs along the way.
In 1987 Sir Tim moved with his family to Cornwall where, during a failed attempt to purchase some land to raise pigs, he learned of an opportunity to acquire an alternative site – one that turned out to harbour the Lost Gardens of Heligan, the dilapidated estate of the Tremayne family. Together with partners John Nelson and Rob Poole, Sir Tim launched a project to restore the once-magnificent estate to its former glory. The site first opened its doors to the public in 1992, and last year the gardens welcomed their five millionth visitor. Today, the project covers 300 acres of land where gardeners work in harmony with nature, protecting and enhancing a wide range of habitats and has been voted the Nation’s Favourite garden.
In 1995 Sir Tim dreamed of another even more ambitious project – to convert a redundant clay pit into several biomes, enormous spheres to house plants from diverse environments around the globe. For seven years Sir Tim worked with countless partners to design and build a truly unique venue – The Eden Project.
When it opened in 2001, The Times called The Eden Project the eighth wonder of the world. Eden encompasses transformational social and environmental projects, supports conservation projects around the globe, promotes healthier, more sustainable lifestyles and hosts art and music events. ‘The Big Lunch’ has grown for 750,000 participants in 2009 to 7.29 million this year and promotes a sense of community, friendship and fun. Today, the Eden Project is a global brand that attracts, delights, surprises and inspires visitors from around the world.
In 2013, Sir Tim became Executive Chairman of Eden Regeneration, the corporate entity responsible for delivering projects under the Eden umbrella, and also leads Eden’s international growth, aiming to open an Eden on every continent of the world within the next five years.
Over the past 15 years, Sir Tim Smit has received an impressive array of awards and honours, including The Royal Society of Arts Albert Medal. In 2002 he received an honorary CBE; in 2007 he was voted ‘Great Briton of the Year” in the Environment category of the Morgan Stanley Great Britons Awards; and in 2011 he was appointed Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.
Eden is a partner on our Sustainability MSc programme, and Sir Tim has worked closely with us and devoted significant time to present to our students during their residential trips to Cornwall.