About Us

A grant-making educational trust, providing funding for individuals, companies and organisations, particularly in scientific and technological disciplines

About us

The Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 awards some 25 postgraduate Fellowships and Scholarships a year, for advanced study and research in science, engineering, the built environment and design.  It also makes a small number of Special Awards to support projects consistent with its overall aims. Many of these are focused on raising the awareness of the young to the opportunities presented by science and engineering. The total annual disbursement is some £2m a year, funded from the Commission’s investment portfolio.  Report of the Board of Management 2016.


The Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 was established in 1850 by Her Majesty Queen Victoria to organise the first world trade fair: The Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations. Prince Albert was appointed President and took personal charge of the whole complex operation.  In just sixteen months a site was chosen in Hyde Park, the iconic Crystal Palace (the largest covered structure on earth at that time) was designed, manufactured and erected and 100,000 exhibits assembled so that the Great Exhibition opened on time on 1 May 1851.

It was an enormous success, attracting more than 6 million visitors and made a substantial profit. When the Exhibition closed in October 1851, the Royal Commission was then established as a permanent body to spend the profits in realising Prince Albert’s ambition to “increase the means of industrial education and extend the influence of science and art upon productive industry”.  To this end the Commissioners purchased 87 acres of land in South Kensington stretching from Kensington Gore to Cromwell Road.  Here they aided the establishment of the Victoria and Albert Museum,  the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum,  the Royal Albert Hall  and Imperial College  as well as the Royal College of Art  and the Royal College of Music.

This extraordinary legacy, a unique cultural estate, became known as Albertopolis and to this day the Commission still acts as landlord for much of the site.  It plays an active part in the estate and its continuing development including through the Exhibition Road Cultural Group.

When this huge undertaking was largely complete, there remained sufficient funds for the Commission to set up an educational trust to perpetuate its aims. Starting with the award of Science Research Scholarships from 1891, the emphasis switched to the support of individuals, although the Commission also made occasional awards to promote other educational ventures of national importance including the British School at Athens  and the British School at Rome, the Commonwealth Institute and the National Physical Laboratory.

“The Royal Commissioners for the Exhibition of 1851” 
By Henry Wyndham Phillips (1820-1868) 
Courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum

HRH The Princess Royal


Mr Bernard Taylor
CBE DL FRSC Chairman

Professor Sir Richard Brook

Sir William Castell

Mr Stuart Corbyn

Professor Dame Kay Davies

Jim Eyre Esq

Professor Sir Christopher Frayling

Professor Lynn Gladden

Professor Lord Mair

Sir John O’Reilly


Ex Officio

The President of the Council

The First Lord of the Treasury

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

The Secretary of State for Business
Innovation & Skills

The Secretary of State for the Environment
Food and Rural Affairs

The President of the Institution
of Civil Engineers

The President of the Geological Society


Mr Nigel Williams CEng