Dr Emma A Taylor, Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professor, Cranfield University and Professor Sarah Jayne Hitt, PhD SFHEA, NMITE, Edinburgh Napier University, discusses embedding ethics in engineering education through wide use of deaf awareness: a gateway to a more inclusive practice.

“An ethical society is an inclusive society”. This is a statement that most people would find it hard to disagree strongly with. As users of the EPC’s Engineering Ethics Toolkit and readers of this blog we hope our message is being heard loud and clear.

But hearing is a problem:

One in five adults in the UK are deaf, have hearing loss or tinnitus. That is 12 million adults or 20% of the population. In the broader context of‘ ‘communication exclusion’ (practices that exclude or inhibit communication), this population figure may be even larger, when including comprehension issues experienced by non-native speakers and poor communication issues such as people talking over one another in group settings such as during meetings.

This ‘communication exclusion’ gap is also visible in an education context, where many educators have observed group discussion and group project dynamics develop around those who are the most dominant (read: loudest) communicators. This creates an imbalanced learning environment with the increased potential for unequal outcomes. Even though this ‘communication exclusion’ and lack of skills is such a huge problem, you could say it’s hidden in plain sight. Identification of this imbalance is an example of ethics in action in the classroom.

Across all spheres, we suggest that becoming deaf aware is one way to begin to address communication exclusion issues. Simple and practical effective tips are already widely disseminated by expert organisations with deep in the field experience (see list of resources below from RNID). Our collective pandemic experience took us all a great step forward in seeing the benefits of technology, but also in understanding the challenges of communicating through the barriers of technology. As engineering educators we can choose to become more proactive in using tools that are already available, an action that supports a wider range of learners beyond those who choose to disclose hearing or understanding related needs. This approach is inclusive; it is ethical.

And as educators we propose that there is an even greater pressing need to amplify the issue and promote practical techniques towards improving communication. Many surveys and reports from industry have indicated that preparing students for real world work environments needs improving. Although they often become proficient in technical skills, unless they get an internship, students may not develop the business skills needed for the workplace. Communication in all its forms is rightly embedded in professional qualifications for engineers, whether EngTech, IEng, CEng or other from organisations such as the UK’s Engineering Council.

And even when skills are explicitly articulated in the syllabus and the students are assessed, much of what is already being taught is not actually being embedded into transferable skills that are effectively deployed in the workplace. As education is a training ground for professional skills, a patchy implementation of effective and active practice of communication skills in the education arena leads to variable skill levels professionally.

As engineers we are problem solvers, so we seek clarification of issues and derivation of potential solutions through identification and optimisation of requirements. The problem-solving lens we apply to technology can also be applied to finding ways to educate better communicators. The “what” is spoken about in generic terms but the “how”, how to fix and examine root causes, is less often articulated.

So what can be done? What is the practical framework that can be applied by both academics and students and embedded in daily life? And how can deaf awareness help get us there?

Our proposal is to work to embed and deploy deaf awareness in all aspects of engineering education. Not only because it is just and ethical to do so, but because it can help us see (and resolve) other issues.  But this won’t, and can’t, be done in one step. Our experience in the field shows that even the simplest measures aren’t broadly used despite their clear potential for benefit. This is one reason why blogs and toolkits like this one exist: to help educators embed resources and processes into their teaching practice.

It’s important to note that this proposal goes beyond deaf awareness and is really about reducing or removing invisible barriers that exist in communication and education, and addressing the communication problem through an engineering lens. Only when one takes a step back with a deaf awareness filter and gets the relevant training, do your eyes (and ears) open and see how it helps others. It is about improving the effectiveness of teaching and communication.

This approach goes beyond EDI principles and is about breaking barriers and being part of a broader student development approach, such as intellectual, emotional, social, and personal growth. The aim is to get students present and to be in the room with you, during the process of knowledge transfer.

As we work on making our engineering classrooms better for everyone, we are focusing on understanding and supporting students with hearing impairments. We are taking a step back and getting re-trained to have a fresh perspective. This helps us see things we might have missed before. The goal is not just to be aware but to actually improve how we teach and communicate.

We want our classrooms to be inclusive, where everyone’s needs are considered and met. It is about creating an environment where all our students, including those with hearing impairments, feel supported and included in the learning process. And stepping back and taking a whole human (“humanist”) view, we can define education as an endeavour that develops human potentialnot just an activity that produces nameless faceless quantifiable outcomes or products. As such, initiatives such as bringing forward deaf awareness to benefit broader communication and engagement provide a measurable step forward into bringing a more humanistic approach to Engineering Education.

So what can you do?

Through the EPC’s growing efforts on EDI, we welcome suggestions for case studies and other teaching materials and guidance that bring together ethics, sustainability and deaf awareness (or other issues of inclusivity).

We’re pleased to report that we are aiming to launch an EDI Toolkit project soon, building on the work that we’ve begun on neurodiversity. Soon we’ll be seeking  people to get involved and contribute resources, so stay tuned! (i.e. “If you have a process or resource that helped your teaching become more inclusive, please share it with us!”).


RNID resources list


Other resources


Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

This article is also available here.

Authors: Peter Mylon MEng PhD CEng FIMechE PFHEA NTF and SJ Cooper-Knock PhD (The University of Sheffield). 

Topic: Maker Communities and ESD. 

Tool type: Knowledge. 

Relevant disciplines: Any. 

Keywords: Interdisciplinary; Education for sustainable development; Makerspaces, Recycling or recycled materials; Employability and skills; Inclusive learning; Local community; Climate change; Student engagement; Responsible consumption; Energy efficiency; Design; Water and sanitation; AHEP; Sustainability; Higher education; Pedagogy. 
Sustainability competency: Collaboration; Integrated problem-solving.

AHEP mapping: This resource addresses two of the themes from the UK’s Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes fourth edition (AHEP4): The Engineer and Society (acknowledging that engineering activity can have a significant societal impact) and Engineering Practice (the practical application of engineering concepts, tools and professional skills). To map this resource to AHEP outcomes specific to a programme under these themes, access AHEP 4 here and navigate to pages 30-31 and 35-37.  

Related SDGs: SDG 4 (Quality education); SDG 6 (Clean water and sanitation); SDG 11 (Sustainable cities and communities); SDG 12 (Responsible consumption and production); SDG 13 (Climate action). 
Reimagined Degree Map Intervention: Active pedagogies and mindset development; Cross-disciplinarity.

Who is this article for? This article should be read by educators at all levels in higher education who are curious about how maker spaces and communities can contribute to sustainability efforts in engineering education. Engaging with this topic will also help to prepare students with the soft skill sets that employers are looking for. 



Makerspaces can play a valuable role in Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). In this article, we highlight three specific contributions they can make to ESD in Engineering: Makerspaces enable engineering in real-world contexts; they build cross-disciplinary connections and inclusive learning; and they promote responsible consumption.   


A brief introduction to makerspaces: 

In recent years, a ‘makerspace’ movement has emerged in Higher Education institutions. While most prevalent in the US, there are now a number of university-based makerspaces in the UK, including the iForge at the University of Sheffield, the Institute of Making at UCL, and the Makerspace at King’s College London. So what is a makerspace, and what do they have to do with Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)?  

Makerspaces are part of a larger “maker movement” that includes maker fairs, clubs and magazines. Within universities, they are “facilities and cultures that afford unstructured student-centric environments for design, invention, and prototyping.” (Forest et al., 2016). Successful and inclusive makerspaces are student led. Student ownership of makerspace initiatives deepens student motivation, promotes learning, and encourages peer-to-peer collaboration. Successful makerspaces produce thriving learning communities, through which projects can emerge organically, outside of curriculum structures and discipline boundaries.  

In terms of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), this means that students can bring their passion to make a difference, and can meet other students with similar interests but complementary skill sets. With support from the University, they can then be given opportunities to put their passion and skills into practice. Below, we focus on three concrete contributions that makerspaces can make to ESD:  Opportunities for applied learning; expanded potential for cross-disciplinary learning, and the chance to deepen engaged learning on sustainable consumption.  


1. Maker communities enable engineering in real world contexts:

1.1 ESD rationale 

ESD enables students to think critically about possible solutions to global challenges. It encourages students to consider the social, economic, and political context in which change takes place. ESD also spurs students to engage, where possible, with those beyond the university.  

It may be tempting to think of engineering as simply a technical exercise: one in which scientific and mathematical knowledge is taken and applied to the world around us. In practice, like all other professions, engineers do not simply apply knowledge, they create it. In order to do their work, engineers build, hold, and share ideas about how the world works: how users will behave; how materials will function; how they can be repaired or disposed of; what risks are acceptable, and why. These ideas about what is reasonable, rational, and probable are, in turn, shaped by the broader social, political, and economic context in which they work. This context shapes everything from what data is available, to what projects are prioritised, and how risk assessments are made. Rather than trying to ignore or remove these subjective and context-based elements of engineering, we need to understand them. In other words, rather than ask whether an engineering process is impacted by social, political, and economic factors we need to ask how this impact happens and the consequences that it holds. ESD encourages students to think about these issues.  


1.2 The contribution of makerspaces 

The availability of both equipment and expertise, and the potential for practical solutions, means that makerspaces often attract projects from outside the university. These provide opportunities to practise engineering in real-world contexts, where there is the possibility for participatory design. All such projects will require some consideration of social, political, or economic factors, which are at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals.  

One example of this is SheffHEPP, a hydroelectric power project at the University of Sheffield. In response to requests for help from local communities, students are designing and building small-scale hydroelectric power installations in a number of locations. This multidisciplinary project requires an understanding of water engineering, electrical power generation, battery storage and mechanical power transmission, as well as taking into consideration the legal, financial, and environmental constraints of such an undertaking. But it also requires Making – students have made scale models and tested them in the lab, and are now looking to implement their designs in situ. Such combinations of practical engineering and real-world problems that require consideration of the wider context provide powerful educational experiences that expose students to the realities of sustainable development. 


There are a number of national and international organisations for students that promote SDGs through competitions and design challenges. These include: 


Student engagement with such activities is growing exponentially, and makerspaces can benefit students who are prototyping ideas for the competitions. At Sheffield, there are over 20 co-curricular student-led projects in engineering, involving around 700 students, many of which engage with the SDGs. In addition to SheffHEPP and teams entering all of the above competitions, these include teams designing solutions for rainwater harvesting, vaccine storage, cyclone-proof shelters for refugees, plastics recycling, and retrofitting buildings to reduce energy consumption. As well as the employability benefits of such activities, students are looking for ways to use engineering to create a better future, with awareness of issues around climate change and sustainability increasing year on year. And none of these activities would be possible without access to maker facilities to build prototypes.  


Linked to the makerspace movement is the concept of hackathons – short sprints where teams of students compete to design and prototype the best solution to a challenge. At Sheffield, these have included: 


In summary, Makerspaces enable students to access multiple initiatives through which they can engage in learning that is potentially participatory and applied. These forms of learning are critical to ESD and have the potential to address multiple Sustainable Development Goals.  


2. Maker communities build cross-disciplinary connections and encourage inclusive learning:

2.1 ESD rationale 

Global complex challenges cannot be resolved by engineers alone. ESD encourages students to value different forms of knowledge, from within and beyond academia. Within academia, makerspaces can provide opportunities for students to collaborate with peers from other disciplines. Cross-disciplinary knowledge can play a crucial role in understanding the complex challenges that face our world today. Makerspaces also offer an opportunity for students to engage with other forms of knowledge – such as the knowledge that is formed through lived experience – and appreciate the role that this plays in effective practices of design and creation. Finally, makerspaces can help students to communicate their knowledge in ways that are understandable to non-specialist audiences. This inclusive approach to knowledge creation and knowledge sharing enables students to think innovatively about sustainable solutions for the future.  


2.2 The contribution of makerspaces   

Cross-disciplinary spaces  

Student-led makerspaces encourage students to lead in the creation of cross-disciplinary connections. For example, at the University of Sheffield, the makerspace has primarily been used by engineering students. Currently, however, the students are working hard to create events that will actively draw in students from across the university. This provides students with a co-created space for cross-disciplinary exchange as students train each other on different machines, learning alongside each other in the space. At other times, staff from different disciplines can come together to create shared opportunities for learning. 

The cross-disciplinary nature of makerspaces and the universality of the desire to create encourages a diverse community to develop, with inclusivity as a core tenet. They can often provide opportunities for marginalised communities. Makerspaces such as the ‘Made in Za’atari’ space in Za’atari refugee camp have been used to give women in the camp a space in which they can utilise, share, and develop their skills both to improve wellbeing and create livelihoods. Meanwhile, projects such as Ambessa Play have provided opportunities for young people in refugee camps across the world to learn about kinetic energy and electronic components by creating a wind-up flashlight.  


Spaces of inclusive learning  

Maker projects also allow students to engage with their local communities, whether creating renewable energy installations, restoring community assets or educating the next generation of makers. Such projects raise the profile of sustainable development in the wider public and give students the opportunity to contribute to sustainable development in their neighbourhoods. 


3. Maker communities promote responsible consumption:

3.1 ESD rationale 

ESD does not just influence what we teach and how we teach; it also shapes who we are. A central tenet of ESD is that it helps to shape students, staff, and educational communities. When this happens, they are – in turn – better able to play their part in shaping the world around them.  


3.2 The contribution of makerspaces  

Even before the concept was popularised by the BBC’s ‘The Repair Shop’, repair cafes had begun to spring up across the country. Such facilities promote an ethos of repair and recycling by sharing of expertise amongst a community, a concept which aligns very closely with the maker movement. Items repaired might include furniture, electrical appliances, and ornaments. Related organisations like iFixit have also helped to promote responsible consumption and production through advocacy against built-in obsolescence and for the ‘Right to Repair’. 

The same principles apply to Making in textiles – sustainable fashion is a topic that excites many students both within and outside engineering, and makerspaces offer the opportunity for upcycling, garment repair and clothes shares. Students can learn simple techniques that will allow them to make better use of their existing wardrobes or of used clothing and in the process begin to change the consumption culture around them. At the University of Sheffield, our making community is currently planning an upcycled runway day, in which students will bring clothing that is in need of refresh or repair from their own wardrobes or from local charity shops. Our team of peer-instructors and sewing specialists will be on hand to help students to customise, fit, and mend their clothes. In doing so, we hope to build an awareness of sustainable fashion amongst our students, enabling an upcycling fashion culture at the university.  



Education for Sustainable Development plays a vital role in enabling students to expand the knowledge and skills that they hold so that they can play their part in creating a sustainable future. Makerspaces offer a valuable route through which engineering students can engage with Education for Sustainable Development, including opportunities for applied learning, cross disciplinary connections, and responsible consumption.  



Forest, C. et al. (2016) ‘Quantitative survey and analysis of five maker spaces at large, research-oriented universities’, 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition Proceedings [Preprint]. (Accessed 19 February 2024). 


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters. 

To view a plain text version of this resource, click here to download the PDF.

We’ve collated a library of links to groups, networks, organisations, and initiatives that connect you with others who are working on embedding sustainability in engineering education.


In developing the resources for the EPC’s Sustainability Toolkit, we took into account recent scholarship and best practices and reviewed existing material available on sustainability in engineering. You can find links to these online resources in our ever-growing library of
engineering education resources on sustainability below. Please note, the resources linked
below are all open-source. If you want to suggest a resource that has helped you, find out how
on our Get Involved page.


To view a page that only lists library links from a specific category type:


Collaboration resources

Organisation Type Sustainability focus
Students Organising for Sustainability (SOS) Student groups General
European Students of Industrial Engineering and Management (ESTIEM) Student groups Engineering-specific
People & Planet Student groups General
Student Platform For Engineering Education Development (SPEED) Student groups Engineering-specific
Global Spark Student groups General
Board of European Students of Technology (BEST) Student groups General
UN regional centre for expertise Networks General
Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education(EAUC) Networks General
RCE Scotland – Learning for Sustainability Scotland Networks General
UN Global Compact Network Networks General
Global Engineering Deans Council (GEDC ) Networks Engineering-specific
International Federation of Engineering Education Societies (IFEES) Networks Engineering-specific
Engineering for Change Networks Engineering-specific
Higher Education Sustainability Initiative(HESI) Organisations / Initiatives General
UK Fires Organisations / Initiatives Engineering-specific
Engineering for One Planet (EOP) Organisations / Initiatives Engineering-specific
Engineers Without Borders UK (EWB-UK) Organisations / Initiatives Engineering-specific
SEFI Sustainability Special Interest Group Organisations / Initiatives Engineering-specific
Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme (IUSDRP) Organisations / Initiatives General


Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

This post is also available here.

Author: The Sustainability Resources Library was produced by Crystal Nwagboso (Engineering Professors Council). If you want to suggest a resource that has helped you, find out how on our Get Involved page.

Welcome to the EPC’s Enterprise Collaboration Toolkit – formerly known as the Crucible Project. Here you will find EPC’s landmark project supporting university and industry collaboration in engineering by showcasing and sharing the keys to success.

Some toolkit content is available to members only. For best results, make sure you’re logged in.

The Enterprise Collaboration Toolkit was inspired by the EPC’s landmark 2020 Annual Congress, Industry & Academia: Supercharging the Crucible, which highlighted five areas of mutual interest.

This toolkit includes case studies from a wide range of HE institutions and industry partners, focusing on these 5 themes which can all can be accessed via the links below:

These case studies are aimed at:

Advisors and contributors

In 2021 the EPC called for case study contributions to build this toolkit to help our members forge stronger industry links by sharing experiences and developing resources. We were delighted to receive nearly 50 applications to contribute case studies, exploring one or more of the Crucible Projects five main themes. These submissions were reviewed in detail by the EPC’s Research, Innovation and Knowledge Transfer Committee (RIKT) and 25 were shortlisted to present at our very successful Crucible Project online launch event on the 16th February 2022. With over 100 attendees joining us throughout the full-day event we saw presentations of a fantastic range of the case studies now available in this toolkit. We would like to extend our greatest thanks to the RIKT committee for all their enthusiasm and hard work on this project, in addition to all those who presented at the event and/or contributed case studies to make this an extensive, and what we hope will be a very useful, resource.

More to come

This is just the beginning of the Crucible Project toolkit – this will be a living and growing resource to provide best practice examples of academic-industry partnerships to help you find research funding, place graduates in employment, create work-based learning and many other collaborations. To ensure the continuous growth of this resource, members will soon be able to contribute their own, or further case studies.


Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Theme: Universities’ and business’ shared role in regional development; Collaborating with industry for teaching and learning; Knowledge exchange; Research; Graduate employability and recruitment.

Author: Prof Matt Boyle OBE (Newcastle University).

Keywords: Electrification; Collaboration Skills; Newcastle.

Abstract: Driving the Electric Revolution is led by Newcastle and is a collaborative R&D project to build supply chains in Power Electronics Machines and Drives. The University led the bid and as we amass supply chain capability we will generate £ Billions in GVA.


Newcastle University has been embedded in the academic and industrial development of the North East of England since 1834. Recently, one of its core competencies, Machines and Drives research, has been used to attract investment to the region from Industry and Government helping to increase the economic prospects for the North East region.

Newcastle University is the national lead organisation for Driving the Electric Revolution Industrialisation Centres an Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund Wave 3 competition. The centres serve two purposes,

  1. A focal point for development of manufacturing processes in Power Electronics, Machines and Drives (PEMD) through investment in cutting edge manufacturing equipment.
  2. The training of researchers, students, employees of industrial partners on these important new processes.

The Driving the Electric Revolution (DER) Industrialisation Centres (DERIC) project aims to accelerate UK industrialisation of innovative and differentiated PEMD manufacturing and supply chain solutions. They are doing this by creating a national network to coordinate and leverage the capabilities of 35 Research and Technology Organisations (RTO) and academic establishments, based within four main centres.  Supported by 166 industrial partners it represents the largest coordinated industrialisation programme the UK PEMD sector has ever seen.

Newcastle University has, in living memory, always been at the forefront of Electric Machines and Drives innovation globally. It was inevitable that Newcastle would lead the DER project given its pedigree, reputation and the fact that it was supported by several companies in several sectors, Automotive, Aerospace and domestic products who undertake product research in the North East and who seek to manufacture in the UK if possible.

Newcastle did recognise however that it couldn’t deliver the government programme alone. There were four institutions which formed a consortium to bid into the competition, Newcastle University, University of Strathclyde, Warwick Manufacturing Group and the Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult in Newport South Wales. Over time they have been joined by University of Nottingham, University of Birmingham, Swansea University and University of Warwick. Letters of support were received from 166 Industry partners, 27 FE and HE organisations expressed support as did 13 RTOs. Although the national bid was led by Newcastle, it took a more North East regional view in development of its delivery model.

Therefore, in addition to this national work, Newcastle extended their DERIC application beyond Newcastle to Sunderland where they worked with Sunderland council to establish a DERIC research facility in the area. Sunderland city council worked with Newcastle to acquire, fit out and commission the lab which received equipment from the project and is due to open in 2022.

Nationally the primary outcome is the establishment of the Driving the Electric Revolution Industrialisation Centres and the network.

The four DERIC act as focal points for the promotion of UK PEMD capabilities. They design develop and co-sponsor activities at international events. They send industrial representatives to meet with clients and research partners from UK, Europe and Asia, as well as developing a new UK event to attract leading PEMD organisations from around the globe.

In Newcastle the university’s sponsorship of both the national project as well as the DERIC in the North East is helping attract, retain and develop local innovation and investment. The equipment granted by the DER Challenge to the centre includes a Drives assembly line as well as an advanced Machines line. The DERIC is focused primarily in the development of manufacturing processes using the granted equipment. The equipment was selected specifically with these new processes in mind. The success of the DERIC program already means that the country and the region have attracted substantial inward investment.

Investments by three companies came to the North East because of the capability developed in the region. They have all agreed partnerships with the university in the process of establishing, acquiring and investing in the North East. The three companies are:

  1. British Volt mission is to accelerate the electrification of society. They make battery cells. Their Gigaplant in Northumberland will be the second Gigaplant in the UK. They are investing £1Bn into the region creating around 5,000 jobs both at the plant and in the supply chain.
  2. Envision also make batteries. Unlike British volt the Envision cell is a Gel pack. Envision has the first Gigaplant in the UK at Sunderland. They are investing a further £450M to expand the plant in Sunderland and potentially another £1.8Bn by 2030.
  3. Turntide Technologies invested £110M into the region acquiring three businesses. These have all in some fashion been supported by and supportive of the PEMD capability at Newcastle over the past six decades.

The university has worked tirelessly to help create an ecosystem in the region for decarbonisation and electrification.

The last stage of this specific activity is the creation of the trained employees for this new North East future. The university, collaborating across the country with DER partners, is embarking on an ambitious plan to help educate, train and upskill the engineers, scientists and operators to support these developments. It is doing this by collaborating, for the North East requirement, with the other universities and further education colleges in the region. Industry is getting involved by delivering a demand signal for its requirements. The education, training and up skilling of thousands of people over the next few years will require substantial investments by both the educators in the region as well as industry.

As the pace of electrification of common internally combusted applications accelerates the need for innovation in the three main components of electrification, power source, drive and machine will grow substantially. The country needs more electrification expertise. The North East region has many of the basic building blocks for a successful future in electrification. Newcastle University and its Academic and Industrial partners have shown the way ahead by collaborating, leading to substantial inward investment which will inevitably lead to greater economic prosperity for the region. Further information is available from the Driving the Electric Revolution Industrialisation Centres website. In addition, there are annual reports and many events hosted, sponsored or attended by the centres.

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Theme: Knowledge exchange, Collaborating with industry for teaching and learning

Authors: Deanne Taenzer (ExpertFile) and Kendra Gerlach, MBA, APR (Virginia Commonwealth University)

Keywords: Industry, Academic Expertise, Collaboration, Knowledge Exchange, Commercial Engagement, Content, Search, Discovery, Innovation, Invention

Abstract: The theme of the session is about how industry currently searches for academic expertise for applied research and other interventions. A speaker from the school of engineering and one from their partnership platform will talk about the importance of online searches and having effective academic profiles for web searches, discovery and engagement. The speakers will be: Kendra Gerlach (Director of Marketing and Communications at the Virginia Commonwealth University’s College of Engineering) and Justin Shaw (UK Development Director for ExpertFile). The university will identify specific industry engagements through their outreach via their own strategic focus and using the content development, structured data for discovery and broad reach distribution channels provided as part of their partnership with ExpertFile.


The following case study addresses, when it comes to knowledge exchange, that there is a fundamental issue in the abilities of industry to identify and source relevant academic experts and applied research centres in the first place.

The aim of the strategy covered in this case study is to determine if improved discovery via online channels and making use of relevant content has more positive outcomes for industry access and engagement with academia. We will discuss how industry searches for academic expertise for applied research, consulting and other interventions– and how the efforts of the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) College of Engineering improved the attraction, interest and engagement from industry and beyond.

VCU College of Engineering needs a strategy for academic expertise discovery

As a young and growing institution, VCU College of Engineering was aware that its faculty had much to offer for knowledge exchange but were almost impossible to find by potential external partners. Before adopting a strategy and partnering with the global online expert platform, ExpertFile, the College had no solution for an online academic directory that offered more than just contact and basic biographical details. A few academics already had websites for their own labs, some had up-to-date information, some included curriculum vitae. The presentation was variable and unattuned to external perspectives. Many weren’t even cited on the College’s website domain, and most were invisible to an online search.

The College recognised that there was a need to make their academics more easily findable with professional-looking content that would surface on top search engines, while also having the expertise promoted beyond the College’s website itself.

The old strategy failed to deliver

Before the College implemented a strategy focused on improved discovery and on delivering relevant and engaging content, it used traditional and digital marketing tactics that didn’t have really an anchor of information for the academic experts. Faculty relied on their own personal connections to industry and other researchers. As the College grew, it became evident that to form research partnerships and pursue large grants, faculty must be more easily found and their expertise easily accessed for academics and non-academics alike.

Putting the strategy into action

When the College pursued the strategy to increase expert visibility, many senior academics were resistant and did not want to change – as they did not fully understand the value to them and their work. The College proceeded with the adoption of professional online profiling knowing that if the strategy did not succeed, at the very least they would have current strengthened content for their showcasing academics online.

The College chose a technology platform to mobilise their strategy and modernise their market visibility – to be competitive in the engineering space. They chose to work with ExpertFile as it supported their own web presence and offered updated multimedia content formats such as videos, images and books. Beyond technology, ExpertFile’s content distribution channels (with partner promotional channels and expert-seekers) also increased content visibility beyond their own website.

With the resistance of faculty a concern, and the need for faculty to provide content for the profiles, the team adopted an initial message related to the student recruitment priority in order to get them on board (academics understood the need to be seen by potential students).

Faculty members were given their own dedicated page on the egr.vcu.edu domain. This was essential to success. Each profile has a unique, personalised url on the website so that search engines can easily find them, resulting in higher search ranking. With 93% of online sessions starting with a search engine[1], 91% of pages getting no organic search traffic from Google [2] and 75% of internet users never scroll past the first page [3] this was critical for ‘discovery’.

The unique urls also facilitated the Marketing and Communications Department to employ cross-linking, a key part to the success of the strategy. The marketing team promotes links to profiles in all content related to an academic. Every news story, award or newsletter mention includes a link. Social media uses links to drive viewers back to the website and the profile. The team have also encouraged the parent University to include links to faculty profiles whenever that person is mentioned.

VCU Engineering created a directory of profiles for the entire College members plus subdirectories for each sub-uni and department for ease of discovery. For example, a searchable subdirectory of only Computer Science faculty or Mechanical Engineering faculty which routes to that department’s homepage.

Profiles aren’t limited to biographical information and publications; they include areas of expertise, industry experience, research patents, videos, books, media and event appearances – all valued by industry and others. This content is as important as the initial discovery as it offers searchers a greater understanding of the academic expertise and its value to them.

Engaging industry benefits reputation
Industry partnerships and opportunities are an important focus of the College and academics knew that improved discovery would have widespread benefits; improving the reputation of the College and its faculty and attracting other groups – prospective graduate students, foundations, academic colleagues, associations and media.

Faculty members with strong reputations in their fields often advance in their own academic associations. For instance, one of the College’s Computer Science experts has been named president-elect of a global organisation. A nuclear engineering professor is now Director General of the World Nuclear Association. Without discovery, academics and colleges rely on their limited connections and miss these larger opportunities.

News media seeking experts struggle to find credible sources. A VCU associate professor that specialises in aerosols is now regularly featured in media and on television because he is now easily findable as an expert in this field. Media coverage has a direct lead generation impact for industry engagement and secures trust in the credibility of the source.

Many of the College’s academics have now established industry partnerships, and the marketing team knows that these efforts have contributed to those successes. From the formation of pharmaceutical clusters locally to the fastest licensing agreement done by the University, the commitment of this strategy to support those successes has paid off.

Measuring impact and results

The College uses tools like Google Analytics Studio to measure results and track progress. Since it has employed trackable pages and cross-links to the content, it has been able to record the steady progress of these efforts. Faculty have benefited from much-elevated search rankings including top-ranked faculty profiles which are viewed between 2,000 and 3,000 times a year, with more than 2,000 different visitors viewing each profile. In a given year, the College now tracks over 90,000 unique visitors that have viewed their academic profiles.



More than 70% of the views come from organic search, which means when a faculty member’s name is searched, their profile pages are among the top results, and in some cases are the number one search result.

The strategy continues to add value

Kendra Gerlach, Director of Marketing and Communications at VCU College of Engineering, and co-author of this case study reflected:

”Researchers often assess their involvement and benefit from supporting  ventures on a three year cycle. If the second year is better than the first, and if the College is seeing success, they continue a third year.“

Kendra is happy to report that the College is now in year five of using ExpertFile and this expert profiling and searchability strategy.

Key Takeaways:


Access summary presentation slides of this case study as a pdf document here.



[1] imForza, 2013, Vinny La Barbera – 8 SEO stats that are hard to ignore 

[2] Ahrefs, 2020, Tim Soulo – Search traffic study

[3] Marketshare.hitslink.com, October 2010


Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Theme: Knowledge exchange, Universities’ and businesses’ shared role in regional development, Collaborating with industry for teaching and learning

Authors: Ben Ricketts (NMITE), Prof Beverley Gibbs (NMITE) and Harriet Dearden (NMITE)

Keywords: Challenge-based Learning, Timber Technology, Levelling-up, Skills, Future of Work

Abstract: NMITE is a greenfield engineering-specialist HEI in Herefordshire which welcomed its first students in September 2021. Partnership is key to our growth, from both necessity and choice. Our MEng Integrated Engineering is infused with partners who facilitate a challenge-based learning pedagogy, and our Centre for Advanced Timber Technology (opening September 2022) works in national partnership to deliver a curriculum developed by – and for – the timber engineering industry. Alongside a rich educational offer, NMITE’s greenfield status brings with it the responsibility to contribute to civic and economic growth. We are a named partner in Western Power Distribution’s Social Contract as we pursue shared goals for regional development and reduced economic inequality. Key to our goals is our role in in Hereford’s Town Plan, leading an initiative called The Skills Foundry which will promote community engagement around individual skills, and with businesses in the changing nature of work.


NMITE is a greenfield HEI founded to make a difference to the people of Herefordshire and to its economy. Herefordshire is  characterised by lower-than-average wages, lower-than-average skills, higher proportions of part-time work, a GVA gap of £1.75bn[1], and is categorised as a social mobility coldspot [2].  Into this context, NMITE was launched in 2021 without any antecedent or parent organisation, and with an engineering and technology focus whose graduates would help address the national shortfall of engineers.  We see ourselves as educators, educational innovators, a catalyst for upskilling, and agents for regional change.

An HEI founded in partnership

From NMITE’s earliest days, building strong relationships with partners has been a core part of our culture.  NMITE’s first supporters were industry partners, a mixture of local SMEs and national and international companies with a regional presence, united by the need for access to a talent pipeline of engineering graduates. The urgency of this need was evidenced in the raising of over £1M of seed funding, from a range of businesses and individuals. This early investment demonstrated to Government and other stakeholders that the concept of an engineering higher education institution in Hereford had industrial support. In turn, this unlocked significant Government funding which has subsequently been matched through donations and sponsorship to NMITE.

Over the last five years, the portfolio of partners has continued to grow. The nature of the support spans equipment, expertise and financial donations. Our Pioneer Fund raised money to support NMITE’s first students, with donations recognised through naming opportunities. For NMITE, this enabled us to offer universal bursaries to our students joining in our first two years of operation – a powerful tool in student recruitment, and with a longer-term outcome for those early investors in their ability to develop relationships with students, increase their brand awareness and achieve their own recruitment targets in the future.

Curriculum Partnerships

NMITE welcomed its first MEng students in September 2021, and this has provided new opportunities for industrial partnership in the curriculum. The MEng Integrated Engineering is a challenge-led pedagogy where learners work in teams to address real engineering challenges provided by an industrial (and occasionally community) partner. During the process, learners have direct contact with professionals to understand commercial pressures and engineering value, apply theoretical knowledge and develop professional capabilities.

In the sprint-based MEng, NMITE learners tackle around 20 different challenges in this way. Since September, our first students have helped re-engineer the material on a torque arm, designed and built a moisture sensor for a timber-framed house, visualised data from a geotechnical survey, and validated/optimised their own designs for a free-standing climbing structure. Students are already building their portfolio of work, and employers are building relationships with our student body.

Amplifying Innovation

Whilst NMITE is comfortable in its positioning as a teaching-focused HEI, we are mindful of the contribution we can make to the regional economy. NMITE has benefitted from LEP investment to support regional skills and productivity [3], and we have identified opportunities in advanced timber technology, automated manufacturing and skills for a changing future of work.

The Centre for Advanced Timber Technology (CATT) will open in September 2022 on Skylon Park, Hereford’s Enterprise Zone. Drawing on insight from a series of round table meetings with global and national businesses in timber, we came to understand that the UK timber industry needed to be much better connected, with more ambitious collaboration across the industry both vertically (seed to end product) and horizontally (between architects, engineers and construction managers, for example). In pursuing these aims we once again opted for a partnerships-based approach, forging close relationships with Edinburgh Napier University – internationally recognised for timber construction and wood science – and with TDUK – the timber industry’s central trade body. Founded in this way, CATT is firmly rooted in industrial need, actively engaged with industrial partners across the supply chain, and helps join up activity between Scotland, England and Wales. 

CATT’s opening in 2022 will spearhead NMITE’s offer for part-time, work-based learners (including professionals, reskillers and degree apprentices) and provide a progressive curriculum for a sustainable built environment. In keeping with NMITE’s pedagogical principals, the CATT’s curriculum will be infused with a diverse portfolio of industrial partners who will provide challenges and context for the CATT curriculum. In future years, the Centre for Automated Manufacturing will provide educational options for comparable learners in the manufacturing industry.

Our initial research in establishing need in these areas pointed not only to skills shortages, but to technological capacity. Herefordshire has a very high proportion of SME’s who report difficulties in horizon scanning new technologies, accessing demonstrations, attracting and retaining graduates with up-to-date knowledge. In this space, and an HEI can play a key role in amplifying innovation; activities to support this will be integral to NMITE’s work at Skylon Park.

The Changing Nature of Work

NMITE is active in two further projects that support the regional economy and social mobility, founded in the knowledge that today’s school leavers will face very different career paths and job roles to those we have enjoyed. Automation, globalisation and AI are hugely disruptive trends that will change opportunities and demand new skills.

NMITE’s ‘Herefordshire Skills for the Future’ project is funded by the European Social Fund and helps SMEs, micro-businesses and young people to develop and secure the skills needed to flourish in the economy of 2030. Activities include:

NMITE’s Future Skills Hub is a central element of the Hereford Stronger Towns bid [4] to the Government’s Towns Fund, a flagship levelling-up vehicle. The overarching goal of the hub is to provide access to skills and improve employment opportunities for Herefordians, in the context of changing job roles and opportunities.


Our core mission of innovation in engineering education is enhanced by our civic commitment to regional growth and individual opportunity. From the outset, NMITE has been clear that to meet business demand for work-ready engineers, business must contribute meaningfully to their development. We aim to contribute to closing the gap in regional, national and global demand for engineers, but without that critical early investment from partners we would not have been in the position to establish the radical institution that NMITE is today, that remains so close to the original vision of the Founders.


[1] Herefordshire Council. Understanding Herefordshire: Productivity and Economic Growth, 2022. Available online at Productivity and economic growth – Understanding Herefordshire [accessed 17th January 2022].

[2] [1] Herefordshire Council. Understanding Herefordshire: Topics Related to Social Mobility, 2022. Available online at Topics relating to social mobility – Understanding Herefordshire [accessed 17th January 2022].

[3] Marches Local Economic Partnership. Marches LEP backs NMITE project with £5.66m funding deal. Available online at Marches LEP backs NMITE project with £5.66m funding deal – Marches LEP [accessed 17th January 2022].

[4] Stronger Hereford. #StrongerHereford – The independent Towns Fund Board for Hereford


Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Theme: Collaborating with industry for teaching and learning

Authors: Dr Gareth Thomson (Aston University, Birmingham), Dr Jakub Sacharkzuk (Aston University, Birmingham) and Paul Gretton (Aston University, Birmingham)

Keywords: Industry, Engineering Education, Authenticity, Collaboration, Knowledge exchange, Graduate employability and recruitment.

Abstract: This paper describes the work done within the Mechanical, Biomedical and Design Engineering group at Aston University to develop an Industry Club with the aim to enhance and strategically organise industry involvement in the taught programmes within the department. A subscription based model has been developed to allow the hiring of a part-time associate to manage the relationship with industry, academic and student partners and explore ways to develop provision. This paper describes the approach and some of the activities and outcomes achieved by the initiative.



Industry is a key stakeholder in the education of engineers and the involvement of commercial engineering in taught programmes is seen as important within degrees but may not always be particularly optimised or strategically implemented.

Nonetheless, awareness of industry trends and professional practice is seen as vital to add currency and authenticity to the learning experience [1,2]. This industry involvement can take various forms including direct involvement with students in the classroom or in a more advisory role such as industrial advisory or steering boards [3] designed to support the teaching team in their development of the curriculum.

Direct input into the curriculum from industry normally involves engagement in dissertations, final year ‘capstone’ project exercises [4], visits [5], guest lectures [6,7], internships [8,9] or design projects [10,11]. These are very commonly linked to design type modules [12,13] or projects where the applied nature of the subject makes industrial engagement easier and are more commonly centred toward later years when students are perceived to have accrued the underpinning skills and intellectual maturity needed to cope with the challenges posed.

These approaches can however be ad hoc and piecemeal. Industry contacts used to directly support teaching are often tied into specific personal relationships through previous research or consultancy or through roles such as the staff involved also being careers or placement tutors. This means that there is often a lack of strategic thinking or sharing of contacts to give a joined up approach – an academic with research in fluid dynamics may not have an easy way to access industrial support or guidance if allocated a manufacturing based module to teach.

This lack of integration often gives rise to fractured and unconnected industrial involvement (Figure 1) with lack of overall visibility of the extent of industrial involvement in a group and lack of clarity on where gaps exist or opportunities present themselves.


Figure 1 : Industry involvement in degrees is often not as joined up as might be hoped.


As part of professional body accreditation it is also generally expected that Industrial Advisory Boards are set-up and meet regularly to help steer curriculum planning. Day to day pressures however often mean that these do not necessarily operate as effectively as they could and changes or suggestions proposed by these can be slow to implement.

Industry Club

To try to consolidate and develop engagement with industry a number of institutions have developed Industry Clubs [14,15] as a way of structuring and strategically developing industrial engagement in industry.

For companies, such a scheme offers a low risk, low cost involvement with the University, access to students to undertake projects and can also help to raise awareness in the students minds of companies and sectors which may not have the profile of the wider jobs market beyond the big players in the automotive, aerospace or energy sectors. At Aston University industry clubs have been running for several years in Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering and Computer Science.

The focus in this report is the setting up and development of the industry club in the Mechanical, Biomedical and Design Engineering (MBDE) department.

Recruitment of companies was via consolidation of existing contacts from within the MBDE department and engagement with the wider range of potential partners through the University’s ‘Research and Knowledge Exchange’ unit.

The industry focus within the club has been on securing SME partners. This is a sector which has been found to be very responsive. Feedback from these partners has indicated that often getting access to University is seen as ‘not for them’ but when an easy route in is offered, it becomes a viable proposition. By definition SMEs do not have the visibility of multi-nationals and so they can struggle to attract good graduates so the ability to raise brand awareness is seen as positive. From the perspective of academics, the very flat and localised management structure also makes for a responsive partner able to make decisions relatively quickly. Longer term this opens up options to explore more expansive relationships such as KTPs or other research projects and also sets up a network of different but compatible companies able to share knowledge among themselves.

Within MBDE the industry club initially focussed on placing industrially linked projects for final year dissertation students. This was considered relatively ‘low hanging fruit’ with a simple proposition for companies, academics and students.

While this proposal is straightforward it is not entirely without difficulty with matching of academics to projects, expectation management and practical logistics of diary mapping between partners all needing attention.

To support this, an Industry Club Associate was recruited to help manage the initiative, funding for this being drawn from industry partner subscriptions and underwritten by the department.

This has allowed the Industry Club to move beyond its initial basis of final year projects to have a much wider remit to oversee much of the involvement of industry in both the teaching programmes directly and in their advising and steering of the curriculum.

Figure 2 shows schematically the role and activities of the industry club within the group.

Impact Beyond Projects

The use of the Industry Club to co-ordinate and bolster other industry activity within the department has gone beyond final year projects. These can be seen in Figure 2.

The Industrial Advisory Board has now become linked to the Industry Club and so with partners now involved in the wider activities of the club involvement is now not exclusively limited to twice yearly meeting but is an active ongoing partnership using the projects, other learning and teaching activity and a LinkedIn group to create a more dynamic and responsive consultation body. A subset of the IAB is now also made up entirely of recent alumni to act as a bridge between the students and practising industry to help spot immediate gaps and opportunities to support students in this important transition.


Figure 2 : Industry Club set-up and Activity


The club has also developed a range of other industrially linked activities in support of teaching and learning.

While industrial involvement is relatively easy to embed in project or design type modules this is not so easy in traditional underpinning engineering science type activity.

To address the lack of industrial content in traditional engineering science modules a pilot interactive online case studies be developed to help show how fundamental engineering science can be applied in authentic industrial problems. A small team consisting of an academic, the industry club associate and an industrialist was assembled.

This team developed an online pump selection tool which combined interactive masterclasses and activities, introduced and explained by the industrialist to show how the classic classroom theory could be used and adapted in real world scenarios (Figure 3). This has been well-received by students, added authenticity to the curriculum and raised awareness in student minds of the perhaps unfashionable but important and rewarding water services sector.


Figure 3 : Online Interactive Activity developed as part of industry club activity

Further interactions developed by the Industry Club, and part of its remit to embed industrial links at all stages of the degree, include the involvement of an Industrial Partner on a major wind turbine design, build and test project engaged in as group exercises by all students in year one. Here the industrialist, a wind energy professional, contextualises work while his role is augmented by a recent alumni member of the Industrial board who is currently working as a graduate engineer on offshore wind and who completed the same module as the students four years or so previously.


While the development of the Industry Club and its associated activity can not be considered a panacea, it has significantly developed the level of industry involvement within programmes. More crucially it moves away from an opaque and piecemeal approach to industry engagement and offers a more transparent framework and structure on which to hang industry involvement to support academics and industry in developing and maximising the competencies of graduates.



Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Theme: Graduate employability and recruitment, Collaborating with industry for teaching and learning, Knowledge exchange

Authors: Dr Corrina Cory (University of Exeter), Nick Russill (University of Exeter and Managing Director TerraDat UK Ltd.) and Prof Steve Senior (University of Exeter and Business Development Director at Signbox Ltd.)

Keywords: Gold Standard Project Based Learning, EntreComp, 21st Century Skills, Entrepreneur in Residence, Collaboration

Abstract: We have recently updated our engineering programmes at the University of Exeter (E21 – Engineering the Future) with a USP of Entrepreneurship at the core of the first two years to prepare students for research led learning and the future of jobs. We have worked closely with our Royal Society Entrepreneurs in Residence (EiR) to ensure authenticity in our ‘real-world’ Gold Standard Project Based Learning (GSPBL) activities. We would like to share this great collaboration experience with our EPC colleagues.



We have recently updated our engineering programmes at The University of Exeter (E21 – Engineering the Future). The Unique Selling Point (USP) of Entrepreneurship is embedded through Stage 1 and 2 using a new methodology combining Gold Standard Project Based Learning (GSPBL)[1] [image: Picture_1.jpg]) and EntreComp[2] ([image: Picture_2.png], the European Entrepreneurship Competence Framework).[3-5]

Gold Standard PBL – Seven Essential Project Design Elements [4]. Creative Commons License. Reference [1] – pblworks.org (2019). Gold Standard PBL: Essential Project Design Elements. [online] Available at: www.pblworks.org/what-is-pbl/gold-standard-project-design (Accessed 16 February 2022).


The EntreComp wheel: 3 competence areas and 15 competences [5]. Creative Commons License. Reference [2] – McCallum, E., Weicht, R., McMullan, L., Price, A. (2018). EntreComp into Action: get inspired, make it happen, M. Bacigalupo & W. O’Keeffe Eds., EUR 29105 EN, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, pg.13, pg. 15 & pg. 20.


The 21st Century Skills developed in the early stages of the programmes prepare students for research-led learning in later stages and future graduate employment.

The Royal Society Entrepreneur in Residence (EiR) scheme, aims to increase the knowledge and awareness of cutting-edge industrial science, research and innovation in UK universities. The scheme enables highly experienced industrial scientists and entrepreneurs to spend one day a week at a university developing a bespoke project.

In this context, the EiR scheme has grown ‘confidence in, and understanding of business and entrepreneurship among staff and students’ and we have collaborated with our EiRs to ensure authenticity in our ‘real-world’ project-based learning activities.[6] They have inspired students to pursue their own ideas and bring them to reality in ways that bring sustained regional and global benefit.



The Engineering Department worked with venture capitalist Alumni, Adam Boyden to create a MEng in Engineering & Entrepreneurship. The education team seized the opportunity during curriculum development to make the Stage 1 and 2 Entrepreneurship modules common to all engineering programmes to embed a USP of Entrepreneurship in E21.

Both our EiRs are natural educators and thrive on sharing their rich experiences and stories to mentor others through their entrepreneurship journeys.

They provide on-site technology demonstrations, prizes for 21st Century Skills and interactive workshops on entrepreneurship. This integration of EiRs into teaching and learning adds variety, and through the power of story, the students engage to a high level. Furthermore, their curiosity prompts them to construct and ask challenging questions.

The open-ended GSPBL driving questions allow groups to develop unique ideas. Most of the projects yielded excellent and highly original themes, some of which could have real value in the future should they be further developed.  

We have observed learning opportunities for inclusivity, listening, improvements in self-confidence and more free-thinking and ideation as a direct result of our methodology combining GSPBL and EntreComp.

Using this method and mapping competences using EntreComp should improve outcomes for graduates who gain the top employability skills required by 2025 e.g., critical thinking and analysis, problem-solving, self-management, active learning, resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility.[7] Students develop an appreciation and understanding of business start-ups, ideation and successful implementation of innovative research and development through their experiential learning.


Our EiRs have provided insights into what it takes to be an entrepreneur and have introduced energy, enthusiasm, creativity and innovative thought processes throughout both Entrepreneurship modules.

Nick Russill’s specific contributions include team building, planning, branding, entrepreneurial skills, innovation, business development, co-hosting project launch seminars, innovation workshops, project-based learning support sessions and mock investment pitch panels.

Steve Senior’s lectures Q&As and workshops include the beauty of failure, advanced Computer Aided Design (CAD)/Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM), marketing and e-commerce. He mentors student teams on how to capitalise on limited resources during growth and explains risk analysis with case studies from his own companies.

The digital materials created for our blended updated programmes will remain a longer-term legacy of their involvement and provide resources available to be called on in future to sustain the impact of EiRs at Exeter.

Nick has commented that ‘my time as EiR with the Exeter engineering students has convinced me that GSPBL takes education to another level, and I wish it were more widespread in education curricula … The close association of learning with real-life applications and case studies has proved that students retain far more technical and theoretical information than they may do from more traditional methods’.

Students are surveyed at the start of Entrepreneurship 1 and the end of Entrepreneurship 2 in terms of their self-assessed ability to evidence aspects of EntreComp on their CV. Previous publications have illustrated an increase in competence over the 2 years of Entrepreneurship and we will continue to collect this data to evidence outcomes.[5]

Entrepreneurs in residence share their real-world experience and then stick around to build relationships with the staff, researchers and students. They become an integral part of the team. Student Feedback definitely proves that we’re helping to ignite sparks for a new generation of entrepreneurs. Student feedback includes:

‘Gain skills in areas concerning self-motivation and creativity’… ‘become comfortable with risk and uncertainty … a really good learning experience’ …’developing confidence and being able to trust yourself and take the initiative’… ‘good innovation and technical skills’ … ‘learning by doing is the only way for entrepreneurship and this course has given us a great environment and support to learn, fail, pivot and learn again’.

Staff and students have commented on the value of injecting ad hoc real-life anecdotes of problem-solving stories and learnings from experienced entrepreneurs which is unique, valuable and significantly enriches learning experiences.

Lessons and Future Work

An individual reflective work package report is submitted by all students at the completion of two years of entrepreneurship modules. This provides a period of reflection for students and a chance to showcase their journey including valuable learning through failure, personal contributions to the group’s success and professional development in terms of 21st Century Skills as defined by EnreComp.

Following panel Q&A at the EPC Crucible Project, future refinement includes reviewing possible additions to the reflective report and illustrating links between engineering competence and EntreComp to clearly signpost students to the relevance of Entrepreneurial 21st Century Skills for graduate employment, chartership and intrapreneurship. 


  1. pblworks.org, 2019. Gold Standard PBL: Essential Project Design Elements. [online] PBLWorks. Available at: https://www.pblworks.org/blog/gold-standard-pbl-essential-project-design-elements (Accessed 18 February 2022).
  2. European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Price, A., McCallum, E., McMullan, L., et al. (2018) EntreComp into action : get inspired, make it happen. Publications Office. https://data.europa.eu/doi/10.2760/574864, pp.13, 15 & 20.
  3. Cory, C., Carroll, S. and Sucala, V., 2019. Embedding project-based learning and entrepreneurship in engineering education. In: New Approaches to Engineering Higher Education in Practice. Engineering Professors’ Council (EPC) and Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) joint conference.
  4. Cory, C., Sucala, V. and Carroll, S., 2019. The development of a Gold Standard Project Based Learning (GSPBL) engineering curriculum to improve Entrepreneurial Competence for success in the 4th industrial revolution. In: Complexity is the new Normality.. Proceedings of the 47th SEFI Annual Conference, pp.280-291.
  5. Cory, C. and Cory, A., 2021. Blended Gold Standard Project Based Learning (GSPBL) and the development of 21st Century Skills – an agile teaching style for future online delivery. In: Teaching in a Time of Change. AMPS Proceedings Series 23.1., pp.207-217.
  6. Royalsociety.org, 2022. Entrepreneur in Residence | Royal Society. (online) Royalsociety.org. Available at: https://royalsociety.org/grants-schemes-awards/grants/entrepreneur-in-residence/ (Accessed 18 February 2022).
  7. World Economic Forum. 2020. The Future of Jobs Report 2020. [online] Available at: https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-future-of-jobs-report-2020 (Accessed 18 February 2022).


Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Theme: Universities’ and business’ shared role in regional development 

Authors: Amer Gaffar (Manchester Metropolitan University); Dr Ian Madley (Manchester Metropolitan University); Prof Bamidele Adebisi (Manchester Metropolitan University).

Keywords: Decarbonisation; Local Energy; Skills; Economic Growth.

Abstract: Greater Manchester (GM) has committed to carbon neutrality by 2038. There is a 97m tonnes carbon emission gap between solutions currently available and a net zero budget. To bridge this innovation gap under the leadership of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority the agency brings together: Bruntwood, Hitachi, MMU, UoM, GM Growth Company, SSE and UoS to support R&D and innovation initiatives focused on customer pull to enable rapid deployment of new and emerging technologies, services and business models to meet the challenge of GM becoming a carbon neutral city-region by 2038, drive skills development and deliver economic growth.


The need for an Energy Innovation Agency

The Mayor for Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) has committed the city region to carbon neutrality by 2038.  An analysis of the implications of the Paris Climate Change Agreement for Greater Manchester (GM) (Figure 1) has identified that there is a 97m tonnes carbon emission gap between solutions currently available and the actions needed to reach net zero.  We refer to this as the Innovation Gap.

Figure 1 GM Net Zero Carbon Budget and implementation pathways. Source GM 5-year Environment Plan [1]


[2] Unconstrained implementation of Scatter methods
Achievable implementation of Scatter methods


To bridge the GM innovation gap under the leadership of GMCA the agency brings together: Bruntwood, Hitachi, Manchester Metropolitan University, University of Manchester, SSE and  University of Salford to support R&D and innovation initiatives focused on customer pull to enable rapid deployment of new and emerging technologies, services and business models (energy innovations) to meet the challenge of GM becoming a carbon neutral city-region by 2038, driving skills development and delivering economic growth.

Forming the Energy Innovation Agency

GMCA initially approached the city’s three universities to seek advice on how their academic expertise could be harnessed to help bridge the innovation gap.  This quickly led to discussions between each of the universities that identified a wide pool of complementary, and largely non-competitive, areas of research expertise that could address the gap (Figure 2).      

Figure 2 Research expertise by university partner – darker colour indicates a greater depth of expertise in the area.


It was also clear that the timescales needed to deliver city wide change would not fit within a traditional academic approach to research and knowledge transfer that required a public-private partnership.

At the core of this partnership approach are three key components.

Using existing networks, a core team comprising GMCA, Bruntwood, Hitachi, MMU, UoM, SSE and UoS came together to develop the business plan for the agency and to jointly provide the funding for the first three-years of the operation of the agency.

Vision, Aims and Objectives

To accelerate the energy transition towards a carbon-neutral economy by bridging the energy innovation gap, increasing the deployment of innovative energy solutions in GM and beyond, to speed-up the reduction of carbon emissions.


  1. Innovation Exploitation: supporting and scaling the most promising decarbonised energy innovations to maximise the early adoption of effective carbon-neutral energy systems.
  2. Decarbonisation: reducing Greater Manchester’s carbon emissions from energy to meet our ambitious target to be a carbon-neutral city region by 2038
  3. Rapid Commercialisation: rapid transition of carbon-neutral energy innovations to full-scale integration.
  4. Investment: creating and promoting investment opportunities for carbon-neutral energy innovations and projects in the city region.



With a population of 2.8 million covering 1,277 km2 the ten metropolitan boroughs of GMCA comprises the second most populous urban area in the UK, outside of London. The scope and potential for the Energy Innovation Agency is huge.


Figure 3 GMCA Energy Transition Region showing local authority boundaries.


Establishing the GM-city region area as an Energy Transition Region will provide the opportunity to develop the scale of deployment necessary to go beyond small-scale demonstration projects and develop the supply chains that can be replicated as a blue-print  elsewhere in urban environments across the UK and internationally.

Progress to date

Following the investment by the founding partners a management team has been established within GMCA’s subsidiary “The Growth Company”.  An independent board chaired by Peter Emery CEO ENWL has also been established.

The formal launch event will take place on 28th April 2022, at which a first challenge to the innovation community to bring forward solutions to decarbonise non-domestic buildings  will be set.

Key contacts and further information

Energy Innovation Agency

Case Study

Amer Gaffar, Director Manchester Fuel Cell Innovation Centre, Manchester Metropolitan University a.gaffar@mmu.ac.uk


[1] https://www.greatermanchester-ca.gov.uk/media/1986/5-year-plan-branded_3.pdf

[2] Kuriakose, J., Anderson, K., Broderick, J., & Mclachlan, C. (2018). Quantifying the implications of the Paris Agreement for Greater Manchester. https://www.research.manchester.ac.uk/portal/files/83000155/Tyndall_Quantifying_Paris_for_Manchester_Report_FINAL_PUBLISHED_rev1.pdf


Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

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