Former Kingston and Surbiton MP Ed Davey has been given an honorary degree by Kingston University.

He spoke at the graduation ceremony for the faculty of science, engineering and computing after he was made an honorary doctor of science on January 21.

The former energy secretary, until he lost the ministerial election to James Berry, said: "Whether it's a team of students and academics building electric motorbikes at Kingston University or some of the amazing advances at other universities and colleges, the importance of those sorts of individual projects – as well as others that are the amalgamation of years of research with different strands of thought and learning coming together – cannot be underestimated.

"The work that scientists, engineers, innovators and entrepreneurs do to improve our world is only possible because of people like you sacrificing things to improve your knowledge and skills.

"I want to thank you for the work you have done, and will do, to contribute to that."

The father-of-two, who was knighted in the New Year's Honours list for his political and public service, paid tribute to Kingston.

Sir Davey said: "I was always proud, as a Member of Parliament, to champion the university and the people who work and study there both locally and nationally, so it means an awful lot that Kingston University has decided to honour me in this way."

Head of energy, Professor Gavin Gillmore, said: "He has continued to be a key influence in the field since moving to the private sector after being a tireless advocate for the university and the people of Kingston and Surbiton for 18 years as our MP, so it seems particularly fitting that we have been able to acknowledge him in this way."