The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has appointed Professor Vernon Gibson as its new Chief Scientific Adviser, who will oversee its science and technology programme.

Gibson is leaving his post as one of BP's chief scientists, a position he took up in 2008. Prior to BP he held the Sir Edward Frankland Chair of Inorganic Chemistry at Imperial College London from 2001 to 2008 and was a personal Chair of Chemistry at the University of Durham from 1993 to 1995.

Professor Gibson trained at both Sheffield (BSc) and Oxford (DPhil) University and spent two years as a NATO post-doctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology.

Gibson said: "I'm looking forward to addressing the science and technology challenges that will help shape the capability of our armed forces in the 21st century."

He will join the department on 2 July and will be replacing Professor Sir Mark Welland, who joined the MoD in 2008. Welland is returning to Cambridge University to take up an academic post.

Welland said: "The post of chief scientific adviser is extraordinarily attractive and extremely influential, both within the department and beyond. The post has existed since the 1960s, so there is a long track record of scientific development within the Ministry of Defence."

The MoD recently made a shock decision in awarding a contract requiring the delivery of payroll and personnel services to serving and veteran communities to CSC, an outsourcer currently shrouded in controversy over £957 million failed NHS plans.

The decision surprised the analyst community, which estimated that the contract is worth £100 million a year to the current supplier, HP.