Author: Dr Lampros Litos (Cranfield University). 

Topic: Sustainability in manufacturing. 

Tool type: Guidance. 

Engineering disciplines:  Aeronautical; Manufacturing, Mechanical. 

Keywords: Energy efficiency; Factories; Best practice; Eco-efficiency; Practice maturity model; AHEP; Student support; Sustainability. 

Sustainability competency: Critical thinking; 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 9 (Industry, innovation, and infrastructure); SDG 12 (Responsible consumption and production). 

Reimagined Degree Map Intervention: More real-world complexity.


Learning and teaching notes: 

The following are a set of use cases for a maturity model designed to improve energy and resource efficiency in manufacturing facilities. This guide can help engineering educators integrate some of the main concepts behind this model (efficient use of energy and resources in factories in the context of continuous improvement and sustainability) into student learning by showcasing case study examples.   

Teachers could use one or all of the following use cases to put students in the shoes of a practicing engineer whose responsibility is to evaluate and improve factory fitness from a sustainability perspective.  


Supporting resources:  


Factory assessment in multiple assembly facilities for an aircraft manufacturer:

The assessment is part of the following use case on this industrial energy efficiency network (IEEN): 

The company operates in the aerospace sector and runs 11 manufacturing sites that employ approximately 50000 people across 4 European countries. Most of the sites are responsible for specific parts of the aircraft i.e. fuselage, wings. These parts once manufactured are sent to two final assembly sites. Addressing energy efficiency in manufacturing has been a major concern for the company for several years.  


It was not until 2006 that a corporate policy was developed that would formalize efforts towards energy efficiency and set a 20% reduction in energy by the year 2020 across all manufacturing sites. An environmental steering committee at board level was set up which also oversaw waste reduction and resource efficiency. The year 2006 became the baseline year for energy savings and performance measures. Energy saving projects were initiated then, across multiple manufacturing sites. These were carried out as project-based activities, locally guided by the heads of each division and function per site.  


A corporate protocol for developing the business case for each project is an initial part of the process. It is designed to assign particular resources and accountabilities to the people in charge of the improvements. Up to 2012, improvement initiatives had a local focus per site and an awareness-raising character. It was agreed that in order to replicate local improvements across the plants a process of cross-plant coordination was necessary. A study on the barriers to energy efficiency in this company revealed three important barriers which needed to be addressed: 

  • Lack of accountability: The site energy manager is responsible for reducing the site’s energy consumption but only has authority to act within a facility’s domain–that is, by improving facilities and services, such as buildings and switchgear. They are not empowered to act within a manufacturing operations parameter. Therefore, no one is responsible for reducing energy demand.  
  • No clear ownership: Many improvements are identified but then delayed due to a lack of funding to carry out the works. This is because neither facilities nor manufacturing operations agree whether the improvement is inside their parameter: typically, facilities claim that it is a manufacturing process improvement, and operations claim that any benefit would be realized by facilities. Both are correct, hence neither will commit resources to achieve the improvement and own the improvement. 
  • No sense of urgency: A corporate target exists for energy reduction–but the planned date for achieving this is 2020.  

The solution that the environmental steering committee decided to support, was the creation of an industrial energy efficiency network (IEEN). The company had previously done something similar when seeking to harmonize its manufacturing processes through  process technology groups (Lunt et al., 2015). This approach consists of each plant nominating a representative who is taking the lead and coordinating activities. It is expected that the industrial network would contribute to a significant 7% share out of the 20% energy reduction target for the year 2020 since its establishment as an operation in 2012.  


The network’s operations are further facilitated with corporate resources such as online tools that help practitioners report and track the progress of current projects, review past ones, and learn about best-available techniques. This practice evolved into an intranet website that is further available to the wider community of practitioners and aims to generate further interest and enhance the flow of information back to the network. Additionally, a handbook to guide new and existing members in engaging effectively with the network and its objective has been developed for wider distribution. These tools are supported by training campaigns across the sites.   


Most of the network members also act as boundary spanners (Gittell and Weiss, 2004) in the sense that they have established connections to process technology groups or they are members of these groups as well. This helps the network establish strong links with other informal groups within the organization and act as conductor for a better flow of ideas between these groups and the network. Potentially, network members have a chance to influence core technology groups towards energy efficiency at product level.  


On average, a 5-10% work-time allocation is approved for all network members to engage with the network functions. In case a member is not coping in terms of time management there is the option of sub-contracting the improvement project to an external subcontractor who is hired for that particular purpose and the subcontractor’s time allocation to the project can be up to 100%.  


 “….by having the network we meet and we select together a list of projects that we want to put forward to access that central pot of money. So we know roughly how much will be allocated to industrial energy efficiency and so we select projects across all of the sites that we think will get funded and we put them all together as a group…so rather than having lots of individual sites making individual requests for funding and being rejected, by going together as a group and having some kind of strategy as well…” 


Each dot on each of the model rows represents the relative efficiencies that a factory achieves in saving energy and resources through best practice (5 of 11 factories represented here, each delivering an aircraft part towards final assembly). The assessment allowed this network of energy efficiency engineers and managers to better understand the strengths and weaknesses in different factories and where the learning opportunities exist (and against which dimension of the model). 


2. The perception problem in manufacturing processes and management practice:

The following assessment is performed in a leading aerospace company where two senior engineering managers (green and orange lines) find it difficult to agree on the maturity of different practices currently used at the factory level as part of their environmental sustainability strategy.  

This assessment was part of the following use case: 

The self-assessment was completed by the head of environment and one of his associates in the same function. These two practitioners work closely together and are based in the UK headquarters. Even though the maturity profiles do not vary significantly (1 level plus or minus) it is clear that there is very little overall agreement on the maturity levels in each dimension.  


3. Using the maturity model as a consensus building tool in a factory:

Seven practitioners from different parts of the business (engineering, operations, marketing, health and safety etc.) were brought together to understand how they think the factory performs. The convergence between perceptions was very small and this would indicate high levels of resistance to change and continuous improvement. For example, if senior managers think they are doing really well, they will not invest time and effort in better practices and technologies. 

A timeline (today +5years) was used to understand where they think they are today and where they want to be tomorrow.  

This can be one of the ways of thinking about improvements that need to occur, starting with areas of interest that are underperforming and developing the right projects to address the gaps. 



Lunt, M.F. et al. (2015) ‘Reconciling reported and unreported HFC emissions with  Atmospheric Observations’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(19), pp. 5927–5931.  

Gittell, Jody & Weiss, Leigh. (2004). Coordination Networks Within and Across Organizations: A Multi-level Framework. Journal of Management Studies. 41. 127-153. 



1. High resolution picture of the maturity model for printing (also available here: Litos, L. (2016). Design support for eco-efficiency improvements in manufacturing p. 218.)


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.

Authors: Diana Adela Martin (University College London), Suleman Audu and Jeremy Mantingh (Engineers Without Borders The Netherlands). 

Topic: Circular business models. 

Tool type: Teaching. 

Relevant disciplines: Chemical; Biochemical; Manufacturing. 

Keywords: Circular business models; Teaching or embedding sustainability; Plastic waste; Plastic pollution; Recycling or recycled materials; Responsible consumption; Teamwork; Interdisciplinary; AHEP; Higher education. 
Sustainability competency: Integrated problem-solving; Collaboration; Systems thinking.

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 11 (Sustainable cities and communities); SDG 12 (Responsible consumption and production); SDG 13 (Climate action); SDG 14 (Life below water). 
Reimagined Degree Map Intervention: More real-world complexity, Active pedagogies and mindset development, Authentic assessment, Cross-disciplinarity.

Educational level: Intermediate. 


Learning and teaching notes:   

This case study is focused on the role of engineers to address the problem of plastic waste in the context of sustainable operations and circular business solutions. It involves a team of engineers developing a start-up aiming to tackle plastic waste by converting it into infrastructure components (such as plastic bricks). As plastic waste is a global problem, the case can be customised by instructors when specifying the region in which it is set. The case incorporates several components, including stakeholder mapping, empirical surveys, risk assessment and policy-making. This case study is particularly suitable for interdisciplinary teamwork, with students from different disciplines bringing their specialised knowledge.  

The case study asks students to research the data on how much plastic is produced and policies for the disposal of plastic, identify the regions most affected by plastic waste, develop a business plan for a circular business focused on transforming plastic waste into bricks and understand the risks of plastic production and waste as well as the risks of a business working with plastic waste. In this process, students gain an awareness of the societal context of plastic waste and the varying risks that different demographic categories are exposed to, as well as the role of engineers in contributing to the development of technologies for circular businesses. Students also get to apply their disciplinary knowledge to propose technical solutions to the problem of plastic waste. 

The case is presented in parts. Part one addresses the broader context of plastic waste and could be used in isolation, but parts two and three further develop and add complexity to the engineering-specific elements of the topic.  


Learners have the opportunity to:  

Teachers have the opportunity to include teaching content purporting to: 


Recommended pre-reading: 

Part one:

Part two:


Part one: 

Plastic pollution is a major challenge. It is predicted that if current trends continue, by 2050 there will be 26 billion metric tons of plastic waste, and almost half of this is expected to be dumped in landfills and the environment (Guglielmi, 2017). As plastic waste grows at an increased speed, it kills millions of animals each year, contaminates fresh water sources and affects human health. Across the world, geographical regions are affected differently by plastic waste. In fact, developing countries are more affected by plastic waste than developed nations. Existing reports trace a link between poverty and plastic waste, making it a development problem. Africa, Asia and South America see immense quantities of plastic generated elsewhere being dumped on their territory.  At the moment, there are several policies in place targeting the production and disposal of plastic. Several of the policies active in developed regions such as the EU do not allow the disposal of plastic waste inside their own territorial boundaries, but allow it on outside territories.  


Optional STOP for activities and discussion 


Part two: 

Impressed by the magnitude of the problem of plastic waste faced today, together with a group of friends you met while studying engineering at the Technological University of the Future, you want to set up a green circular business. Circular business models aim to use and reuse materials for as long as possible, all while minimising waste. Your concern is to develop a sustainable technological solution to the problem of plastic waste. The vision for a circular economy for plastic rests on six key points (Ellen McArthur Foundation, n.d.): 

  1. Elimination of problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging through redesign, innovation, and new delivery models is a priority 
  2. Reuse models are applied where relevant, reducing the need for single-use packaging 
  3. All plastic packaging is 100% reusable, recyclable, or compostable 
  4. All plastic packaging is reused, recycled, or composted in practice 
  5. The use of plastic is fully decoupled from the consumption of finite resources 
  6. All plastic packaging is free of hazardous chemicals, and the health, safety, and rights of all people involved are respected 


Optional STOP for group activities and discussion 


Part three: 

The start-up SuperRecycling aims to develop infrastructure solutions by converting plastic waste into bricks. Your team of engineers is tasked to develop a risk assessment for the operations of the factory in which this process will take place. The start-up is set in a developing country of your choice that is greatly affected by plastic waste. 


Optional STOP for group activities and discussion 


Acknowledgement: The authors want to acknowledge the work of Engineers Without Borders Netherlands and its partners to tackle the problem of plastic waste. The case is based on the Challenge Based Learning exploratory course Decision Under Risk and Uncertainty designed by Diana Adela Martin at TU Eindhoven, where students got to work on a real-life project about the conversion of plastic waste into bricks to build a washroom facility in a school in Ghana, based on the activity of Engineers Without Borders Netherlands. The project was spearheaded by Suleman Audu and Jeremy Mantingh. 


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.

Authors: Paola Seminara (Edinburgh Napier University); Alasdair Reid (Edinburgh Napier University).

Topic: Sustainable materials  in construction.

Engineering disciplines: Civil engineering; Manufacturing; Construction.

Ethical issues: Sustainability; Respect for the environment; Future generations; Societal impact; Corporate Social Responsibility.

Professional situations: EDI; Communication; Conflicts with leadership/management; Quality of work; Personal/professional reputation.

Educational level: Intermediate.

Educational aim: Practising Ethical Analysis: engaging in a process by which ethical issues are defined, affected parties and consequences are identified, so that relevant moral principles can be applied to a situation in order to determine possible courses of action.


Learning and teaching notes:

This case involves an early-career consultant engineer working in the area of sustainable construction. She must negotiate between the values that she, her employer, and her client hold in order to balance sustainability goals and profit. The summary involves analysis of personal values and technical issues, and parts one and two bring in further complications that require the engineer to decide how much to compromise her own values.

This case study addresses two of AHEP 4’s themes: 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 case study to AHEP outcomes specific to a programme under these themes, access AHEP 4 here and navigate to pages 30-31 and 35-37.

The dilemma in this case is presented in two parts. If desired, a teacher can use the Summary and Part one in isolation, but Part two develops and complicates the concepts presented in the Summary and Part one to provide for additional learning. The case allows teachers the option to stop at multiple points for questions and / or activities as desired.

Learners have the opportunity to:

Teachers have the opportunity to:


Learning and teaching resources:

News articles:


Journal articles:

Educational institutions:

Citizen engagement organisation:

Professional organisation:



Suggested pre-reading:

Learners and teachers might benefit from pre-reading the above resources about EDI and enacting global responsibility, as well as introductory material on construction with mass timber such as information from Transforming Timber or the “How to Build a Wood Skyscraper” video.



Originally from rural Pakistan, Anika is a construction engineer who has recently finished her postgraduate degree, having been awarded a fully funded scholarship. During her studies, Anika was introduced to innovative projects using mass timber and off-site methods of construction. After completing her studies, she was inspired to start her own consultancy practice in the UK, aiming to promote the use of sustainable materials within the construction industry.

James is the director of a well-established, family-owned architectural firm, originally started by his great-grandfather who was also a prominent societal figure. In the last year, James and his colleagues have sought to develop a sustainability policy for the firm. A key feature of this new policy is a commitment to adopt innovative, sustainable construction solutions wherever possible. James has been contacted by an important client who wants to commission his firm to work on a new residential development.

James first met Anika at university when they were both studying for the same postgraduate degree. Having a high regard for Anika’s capability and professionalism, James contacts Anika to propose working together to develop a proposal for the new residential development.

James hopes that Anika’s involvement will persuade the client to select construction solutions that are aligned with the new sustainability policy adopted by his firm. However, the important client has a reputation for prioritising profit over quality, and openly admits to being sceptical about environmental issues.

Anika schedules a meeting with the client to introduce herself and discuss some initial ideas for the project.


Optional STOP for questions and activities:

1. Discussion: Personal values – What are the different personal values for Anika, James, and the client? How might they conflict with each other?

2. Activity: Professional communication – Elevator pitch activity part 1 – Working in groups of 2-3 and looking at the three different stakeholders’ personal values, each group will create a persuasive pitch of 1 minute used by Anika to convince the client to focus on sustainability.

3. Activity: Technical Analysis – Assemble a bibliography of relevant projects using mass timber and off-site methods of construction, and identify the weaknesses and strengths of these projects in terms of sustainability and long- and short-term costs and benefits.

4. Activity:  Professional communication – Elevator pitch activity part 2 – After conducting your technical analysis, work in groups of 2-3 to revise your elevator pitch and role play the meeting with the client. How should Anika approach the meeting?


Dilemma – Part one:

After the first meeting, the client expresses major concerns about Anika’s vision. Firstly, the client states that the initial costings are too high, resulting in a reduced profit margin for the development. Secondly, the client has serious misgivings about the use of mass timber, citing concerns about fire safety and the durability of the material.

Anika is disheartened at the client’s stance, and is also frustrated by James, who has a tendency to contradict and interrupt her during meetings with the client. Anika is also aware that James has met with the client on various occasions without extending the invitation to her, most notably a drinks and dinner reception at a luxury hotel. However, despite her misgivings, Anika knows that being involved in this project will secure the future of her own fledgling consulting company in the short term – and therefore, reluctantly, suspects she will have to make compromises.


Optional STOP for questions and activities:

1. Discussion: Leadership and Communication – Which global responsibilities does Anika face as an engineer? Are those personal or professional responsibilities, or both? How should Anika balance her ethical duties, both personal and professional, and at the same time reach a decision with the client?

2. Activity: Research – Assemble a bibliography of relevant projects where mass timber has been used. How might you design a study to evaluate its structural and environmental credentials? What additional research needs to be conducted in order for more acceptance of this construction method?

3. Activity: Wider impact – Looking at Anika’s idea of using mass timber and off-site methods of construction, students will work in groups of 3-4 to identify the values categories of the following capital models: Natural, Social, Human, Manufactured and Financial.

4. Activity: Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion – Map and analyse qualities and abilities in connection with women and how these can have a positive and negative impact in the construction industry.

5. Discussion: Leadership and Communication – Which are the competitive advantages of women leading sustainable businesses and organisations? Which coping strategy should Anika use for her working relationship with James?


Dilemma – Part two:

Despite some initial misgivings, the client has commissioned James and Anika to work on the new residential development. Anika has begun researching where to locally source mass timber products. During her research, Anika discovers a new off-site construction company that uses homegrown mass timber. Anika is excited by this discovery as most timber products are imported from abroad, meaning the environmental impact can be mitigated.


Optional STOP for questions and activities:

1. Activity: Environmental footprint – Research the Environmental Product Declaration of different construction materials and whole life carbon assessment.

2. Discussion: Is transportation the only benefit of using local resources? Which other values (Natural, Social, Human, Manufactured and Financial) can be maximised with the use of local resources? How should these values be weighted?

3. Discussion: Professional responsibility – How important is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Construction? How could the use of local biogenic materials and off-site methods of construction be incorporated into a strategic CSR business plan?


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.

Author: Dr Irene Josa (University College London). The author would like to acknowledge Colin Church (IOM3) who provided valuable feedback during the development of this case.

Topic: Materials sourcing and circularity.

Engineering disciplines: Materials engineering; Manufacturing; Environmental engineering; Construction.

Ethical issues: Respect for the environment; Risk.

Professional situations: Conflicts of interest; Public health and safety; Legal implications; Whistleblowing; Power; Corporate social responsibility.

Educational level: Intermediate.

Educational aim: Gaining ethical knowledge. Knowing the sets of rules, theories, concepts, frameworks, and statements of duty, rights, or obligations that inform ethical attitudes, behaviours, and practices.


Learning and teaching notes:

This case involves an engineer responsible for verifying the source of recycled construction material to ensure it is not contaminated. The case is presented in three parts. Part one focuses on the environmental, professional, and social contexts and may be used in isolation to allow students to explore both micro-ethical and macro-ethical concerns. Parts two and three bring in a dilemma about public information and communication and allows students to consider their positions and potential responses. The case allows teachers the option to stop at multiple points for questions and / or activities as desired.

This case study addresses two of AHEP 4’s themes: 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 case study to AHEP outcomes specific to a programme under these themes, access AHEP 4 here and navigate to pages 30-31 and 35-37.

Learners have the opportunity to:

Teachers have the opportunity to:


Learning and teaching resources:


Government site:


Journal articles:

Professional organisations:


Dilemma – Part one:

Charlie is a junior environmental engineer who started working at Circle Mat after graduating. Circle Mat is a construction products company that takes pride in using recycled materials from waste in their products, such as mortars and concretes. In fact, Circle Mat was recently nominated by the National Sustainability Association in the prize for the most innovative and sustainable production chains.

Charlie’s role is to ensure that the quality standards of the recycled waste used in the products are met. She is sent a report every two weeks from the factories receiving the waste and she checks the properties of this waste. While she is also supposed to visit all the factories once a month, her direct supervisor, Sam, advised her to visit only those factories where data shows that there are problems with the quality. While it is Charlie’s responsibility to verify the quality and to create the factory visit plan, she trusts her line manager as to how best approach her work.

Among all the factories with which they are working, the factory in Barretton has always had the highest quality standards, and since it is very far from where Charlie is based, she has postponed for months her visit to that factory.


Optional STOP for questions and activities:

1. Discussion: Charlie is responsible for checking the quality from the data she receives, but what about the quality/reliability of the data? Where does her responsibility begin and end? What ethical guidance, codes, or frameworks can help her decide?

2. Activity: Research the issue of asbestos, including current science, potential risks, and legal implications.

3. Discussion: Macroethical context – What is circularity, and how does it relate to climate goals or environmental practice?


Dilemma: Part two:

After several months, she finally goes to the town where the factory is located. Before getting to the factory, she stops for a coffee at the town’s café. There, she enquires of the waiter about the impacts of the factory on the town. The waiter expresses his satisfaction and explains that since Circle Mat started operations there, the town has become much more prosperous.

When Charlie reaches the factory, she notices a pile of waste that, she assumes, is the one that is being used as recycled aggregate in concrete. Having a closer look, she sees that it is waste from demolition of a building, with some insulation walls, concrete slabs and old pipes. At that moment, the head of the factory arrives and kindly shows Charlie around.

At the end of the visit, Charlie asks about the pile, and the head says that it is indeed demolition waste from an old industrial building. By the description, Charlie remembers that there are some buildings in the region that still contain asbestos, so asks whether the demolition material could potentially have asbestos. To Charlie’s surprise, the head reacts aggressively and says that the visit is over.


Optional STOP for questions and activities:

1. Activity: Use an environmental and social Life Cycle Assessment tool to assess the environmental and social impacts that the decision that Charlie makes might have.

2. Discussion: Map possible courses of action regarding the approach that Charlie could adopt when the factory head tries to shut down the visit. Discuss which is the best approach and why. Some starting questions would be: What should Charlie do? What feels wrong about this situation?

3. Discussion: if she reports her suspicions to her manager, what data or evidence can she present? Should she say anything at all at this point?


Dilemma – Part three:

In the end, Charlie decides not to mention anything, and after writing her report she leaves Barretton. A few days later, Circle Mat is announced to be the winner of the prize by the National Sustainability Association. Circle Mat organises a celebration event to be carried out in Barretton. During the event, Charlie discovers that Circle Mat’s CEO is a relative of the mayor of Barretton.

She is not sure if there really is asbestos in the waste, and also she does not know if other factories might be behaving in the same way. Nonetheless, other junior engineers are responsible for the other factories, so she doesn’t have access to the information.

Some days after the event, she receives a call from a journalist who says that they have discovered that the company is using waste from buildings that contain asbestos. The journalist is preparing an article to uncover the secret and wants to interview her. They ensure that, if she wants, her identity will be kept anonymous. They also mention that, if she refuses to participate, they will collect information from other sources in the company.


Optional STOP for questions and activities:

1. Activity: Technical integration related to measuring contaminants in waste products used for construction materials.

2. Discussion: What ethical issues can be identified in this scenario? Check how ethical principles of the construction sector inform the ethical issues that may be present, and the solutions that might be possible.

3. Discussion: What interpersonal and workplace dynamics might affect the approach taken to resolve this situation? 

4. Discussion: Would you and could you take the interview with the journalist? Should Charlie? Why or why not?

5. Activity: In the case of deciding to take the interview, prepare the notes you would take to the interview.


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.

Author: Peter Beattie (Ultra Group). 

Topic: Dealing with contracts or subcontracts with potential slave or forced labour. 

Engineering disciplines: Manufacturing; Engineering business. 

Ethical issues: Social responsibility; Human rights; Risk. 

Professional situations: Legal implications; Company/organisational reputation; Conflicts with leadership/management. 

Educational level: Beginner. 

Educational aim: Practising Ethical Reasoning: the application of critical analysis to specific events in order to evaluate and respond to problems in a fair and responsible way. 


Learning and teaching notes: 

This case study puts students in the shoes of an engineer who is required to select a subcontractor to manufacture systems and parts. There are stipulations around who can be selected, among which are legal and ethical concerns around  suspicions of slavery or forced labour. The engineer must navigate communication with both their supervisors and their potential subcontractor, and ultimately justify their decision.  

This case study addresses two of the themes from the 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 case study to AHEP outcomes specific to a programme under these themes, access AHEP 4 here and navigate to pages 30-31 and 35-37. 

The case is presented in three parts. If desired, a teacher could use the Summary and Part one in isolation, but Parts two and three enable additional professional situations to be brought into consideration. The case study allows teachers the option to stop at multiple points for questions and/or activities as desired.  

Learners have the opportunity to: 

Teachers have the opportunity to: 


Learning and teaching resources: 

Professional organisations: 

Government sites: 

Global development institutions: 


Educational institutions: 



Autonomous Vehicle Corporation (AVC) has recently been awarded a contract to provide a bespoke design unmanned air vehicle to India. AVC is a UK certified B Corp that prides itself on maintaining the highest standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. 

A stipulation of the newly awarded contract is that at least 30% of the contract value is spent on the manufacture of sub-systems and parts from subcontractors based in India. AVC is responsible for identifying and contracting these suppliers. 

After many years working as a Systems Engineer for AVC, you have been selected as the Lead Engineer for the project, responsible for the selection of the Indian suppliers. You are aware from your initial research of reports regarding slave and forced labour in the region’s manufacturing industry and are concerned that this situation might affect the project and the company. Additionally, you would personally feel uncomfortable knowing that you might contract a supplier who engaged in those practices. 


Optional STOP for questions and activities: 

1. Activity: To consider how AVC might be impacted from engaging a supplier that utilises slave or forced labour, chart out the viewpoints of different stakeholders, such as customers, investors, other suppliers, communities, and employees. 

2. Discussion: Are there other factors besides ethical considerations that may influence your selection of supplier? What are these?  

3. Discussion: How would you weigh the importance of ethical considerations, such as the use of slave or forced labour, against the other factors identified in the previous question? What information or resources might you use in guiding your weighting of these considerations? 

4. Activity: Contrast the UK Engineering Council’s code of ethics with the Engineering Council of India’s Code of Ethics. How do the two differ? Which code should you be primarily guided by in this situation? Why? How might cultural expectations and norms influence what is seen as ethical?  


Dilemma – Part one: 

One supplier you are considering is Quality Electronics Manufacturing Pvt. Ltd. (QEM), a company based outside Naya Raipur in one of India’s poorest provinces. During a video call, QEM’s managing director assures you that they comply with a strict code of ethics and conduct all recruitment through a carefully selected list of brokers and agencies. He tells you that QEM sources raw materials from around the world, and none of their suppliers have ever been convicted of any offences relating to slavery. He invites you to tour their factory when you are in the country next month and will personally escort you to answer any questions you may have. 


Optional STOP for questions and activities: 

1. Activity: Does anything you have heard give you cause for concern regarding the risk of slave or forced labour at QEM in particular? Research this issue from the perspective of various sources, such as investigative journalism, academic papers, government reports, and industry publications. Do their conclusions align or differ in any significant ways? Are there any gaps in knowledge that these sources haven’t adequately covered?  

2. Discussion: QEM mentions that they source raw materials from around the world. The reality of modern supply chains is that they often involve multiple complex layers of subcontractors. Does AVC have an ethical duty to consider the whole supply chain? Would this be the same if AVC were further down the supply chain? If AVC were further down the supply chain, would they have to consider the upstream elements of the supply chain? What are the business implications of considering an entire supply chain? 

3. Activity: List possible contextual risk factors and potential indicators of slave and forced labour. Which are present in the case of QEM? 

4. Activity and discussion: Create a set of questions you wish to answer during your visit to QEM to help assess the risk that they are engaged in the use of slave or forced labour. How will you get this information? Who will you need to talk to? What evidence would you expect to see and collect? To practise business communication, students could draft a memo to their supervisor explaining the situation and outlining their proposed course of action.  


Dilemma – Part two: 

During your visit to QEM’s factory, you meet with workers at all levels and you review QEM’s policies and procedures. You identify some potential risk factors that could indicate QEM is using forced labour in its workforce. You raise this with QEM’s managing director, but he responds indignantly, “QEM creates good jobs for our workers and without us they would not be able to feed their families. Your contract would allow us to sustain those jobs and create many more for the local community.” 

You know that QEM is the lowest cost supplier for the work you want them to undertake, and you are under pressure to keep budgets down. You have no conclusive evidence that QEM uses forced labour. You also know that the alternative suppliers you could use are all based in regions with high employment, which means the risk of not being able to staff your work (resulting in schedule delays) is high.  

Upon your return to the UK, your project manager calls you into her office and tells you she needs your decision on whether to utilise QEM by the end of the week. 


Optional STOP for questions and activities: 

1. Activity: Conduct a risk analysis that identifies what might be the impact of not using QEM and what might be the impact of using QEM. 

2. Debate: Do you use QEM as one of your suppliers? Why, or why not? You may wish to consider your answer using the lens of uncertainty and risk. 

3. Discussion: What actions could you put in place with QEM to reduce the incidence/risk of slave or forced labour in its workforce? Which of these would you recommend, and which would you require, QEM to implement as part of contracting with them? How would you enforce them, and what evidence of them being successfully implemented would you need? 


Dilemma – Part three – Postscript:

If you chose to use QEM: It is now two years after you subcontracted QEM. An investigation by an NGO has uncovered the rampant use of slave and forced labour within the global electronics manufacturing industry by companies with B-Corp status. AVC is named as one of the perpetrators, and a story about workers at QEM is scheduled to run in a leading tabloid newspaper tomorrow morning. AVC has called an emergency press conference to give its side of the story.  

If you chose not to use QEM: The following week, your project manager calls you into her office again. She tells you that she has just stepped out of a meeting with the board, and they are deeply concerned about spiralling costs on your project. In particular, they are concerned that you rejected QEM’s proposal in favour of another supplier who is more than twice as expensive. You have been asked to present your reasoning to the board when they reconvene shortly.  


Optional STOP for activity:

1. Roleplay either the press conference or the board meeting and defend your decision. 


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.

Case enhancement: Industrial pollution from an ageing pipeline

Activity: Prompts to facilitate discussion activities.

Author: Sarah Jayne Hitt, Ph.D. SFHEA (NMITE, Edinburgh Napier University).



There are several points in this case during which an educator can facilitate a class discussion about relevant issues. Below are prompts for discussion questions and activities that can be used. These correspond with the stopping points outlined in the case. Each prompt could take up as little or as much time as the educator wishes, depending on where they want the focus of the discussion to be.


Case Summary – Discussion prompts:

1. Professional Contexts. The question listed in the case study is meant to elicit students’ consideration of working as an engineer in a professional culture different from the one they are familiar with. To answer this question, educators could have students reflect quietly and make notes for a few minutes, or discuss with a partner before sharing with the class. If students are hesitant to engage in questions of cultural differences, they could be prompted to examine why they have that discomfort. Educators might also want to prepare for conversations like this by reviewing the guidance article Tackling tough topics in discussion.

2. Meeting Preparation. The question listed in the case study focuses on the choices that engineers make when presenting data; that is, should they show managers a complete or incomplete picture of the situation in question? What implications does that have in terms of managers’ ability to make decisions? The question also is meant to help students consider aspects of professional communication. Students could be tasked with actually doing a version of the meeting preparation as pairs in the classroom, or they could do this as a reflective exercise as well.


Dilemma – Part one – Discussion prompts:

1. Personal and Professional Responsibility. Here, students are being asked to explore their own personal responses to the informal housing situation outside the factory and interrogate whether or not that response could or should affect their professional actions. The question also investigates the scope of professional responsibility, and at what point an engineer has fulfilled this or fallen short. To engage students in this discussion, educators could split the class in half, with half the room discussing the position that Yasin does NOT have a responsibility, and why; and the other half discussing the position that Yasin DOES have a responsibility and why. Alternatively, students could be asked to write down their own answer to this question along with reasoning why or why not, and then the educator could ask volunteers to share responses in order to open up the discussion.

2. Economic Contexts. Students can use this question to expand on question 1 of this section, and in fact they may already have drawn cost into their reasoning. One way to open up this discussion is to think of the broader costs, meaning: is there a social or environmental cost that the company externalises through its polluting activities? Another way into the question is to go back to the question of responsibility, because engineers are routinely responsible for making budgets and judgements related to costs. Through this financial activity, are they able to advocate for more ethical practices, and should they?


Dilemma – Part two – Discussion prompts

1. Job Offer. This question is meant to point to the issue of bribery, and have students wrestle with the situations presented in the case. Educators could have students review various definitions of bribery, including the one in the RAEng’s Statement of Ethical Principles. They could compare this with the Engineering Council of India’s Code of Ethics. What do these two codes say about Yasin’s case? If they don’t give clear guidance, what should Yasin do? Students could discuss why or why not they think this is bribery in small or large groups, and could debate what Yasin’s action should be and why.

2. External Reporting. This question addresses whistleblowing, and what responsibilities engineers have for reporting unethical actions to professional or legal entities. Students could be asked individually to answer the question and give reasons why, based on the codes of ethics relevant to the case. They could also answer the question based on their own personal values. Then they could discuss their responses in small groups and interrogate whether or not the codes conflict with their values. Educators could at this point raise the question of whether or not there may be different cultural expectations in this area that Yasin might have to navigate, and if so, if this should make any difference to the action he should take. Students could also be asked to chart out the personal and professional repercussions Yasin could experience for either action. This discussion could be good preparation for activity #5, the debate.


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.

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, Universities’ and businesses’ shared role in regional development, Research, Graduate employability and recruitment

Authors: Alex Prince (Sheffield Hallam University) and Prof Wayne Cranton (Sheffield Hallam University)

Keywords: Innovation, SMEs

Abstract: The Sheffield innovation Programme led by Sheffield Hallam with the Growth Hub and the University of Sheffield, delivers bespoke R&D, consultancy and workshops, driving innovation in regional SMEs. In total, since 2016, our experts from across the University have supported over 400 projects with regional businesses, enabling them to grow, diversify and meet changing customer needs. Many projects lead to further collaborations such as KTPs and create new products, processes and market opportunities.



The Sheffield Innovation Programme (SIP) was set up in 2016 to support small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) from across the South Yorkshire region to access academic expertise, facilities and resources at Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Sheffield, to stimulate innovation and growth and to increase business competitiveness. The focus of this paper is on activities delivered by Sheffield Hallam University.

Sheffield Hallam University leads the programme, and with the £3.1m second phase of the programme also introducing two Innovation Advisors working for the Growth Hub. The programme is jointly funded by; the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the universities, South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority and the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF), providing support at zero-cost to businesses. It runs until June 2023.


The programme has now reached a milestone of 400 projects with regional SMEs, enabling them to grow, diversify and meet changing customer needs. To date over 150 academics have worked with companies. Of these 76 staff who are based in Sheffield Hallam’s engineering research centres have worked with 85 companies. 

SIP supports time for academics to undertake work with clients. It uses funding to enable delivery of R&D consultancy services to the businesses, helping to establish new products or services, resolve problems or advise on appropriate routes forwards.


The main output is ‘business assist’ interventions- a minimum of 12 hours of engagement.  These are delivered through bespoke R&D-based consultancy and workshops. The average intervention is approx. 7 days, recognising the potential time required to work with a client meaningfully.

Sheffield Hallam has implemented a light-touch internal approval process for clients where support may take more than 10 days of time. Such investment needs to demonstrate significant added value- for the client in terms of market opportunity or jobs created, or potentially for us also in terms of joint funding proposal development.

SIP has now resulted in 8 successful KTP applications for Sheffield Hallam with more in the pipeline, plus other Innovate UK and commercial consultancy activities, plus considerable reputational benefit regionally.

SIP, Innovation and Engineering expertise

SIP has developed a proven model for collaborating with SMEs, buying out the time of engineers and other academic experts so they can work with companies.

The core areas of academic support are the expertise within the Materials Engineering Research Institute (MERI), the National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering (NCEFE), and the Sport Engineering Research Group (SERG) and Design Futures (Product and Packaging).

In a region with a very low level of innovation and investment in R&D, the project provides an important entry point to the University’s expertise and a platform for longer term projects and creates opportunities for early career researchers, graduate interns and KTP associates.  Project delivery connects our engineering expertise with specialisms across the University resulting in collaborations with designers, biosciences and materials, and supports targeted engagement with sectors for example glass and ceramics and the food industry.


  1. Thermotex Engineering a family-run business which operates in the field of thermodynamics and specialises in manufacturing thermal insulation. The company required physical evidence of how a fabric performed in order to make a bid for a major project based in Arctic Russia. We undertook accelerated weathering testing on the durability of a fabric material when it was exposed to cycles of freezing and thawing, UVB radiation and high temperature / relative humidity. ‘This solution provided us with indicative product testing for unusual characteristics, access to laboratory equipment, and performance of specific tests,’ said Paige Niehues, the Commercial and Technical Executive at Thermotex Engineering.
  2. Sheffield-based SME Safety Fabrications Ltd manufactures fall protection and building access solutions. This includes roof top anchoring systems that allow roped access (e.g., abseiling) at height.  The company wanted to develop a new davit arm and socket system that could be used on tall structures to improve rope access for building maintenance. Their unique product idea avoided permanent obstruction on roof tops and allowed for easy installation and removal.  MERI worked with Safety Fabrications Ltd to design different davit arm configurations which would satisfy the complex needs of the BS specification. “Working with engineering specialists within the university allowed us to theoretically explore a range of options prior to manufacture & physical testing.” John Boyle, Managing Director at Safety Fabrications Limited
  3. Equitrek provides an excellent example of cross disciplinary working and progression of relationships with a company. In summary our design expertise enabled the company to manufacture new horse boxes targeting entry into the American market and has led to longer term KTPs.  The KTP has enabled Equi-Trek to enhance all aspects of their new product development processes, including ergonomics, spatial design, technical analysis and manufacturing.
  4. Sheffield Hallam’s National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering helping local business Dext Heat Recovery, who worked with restaurant chains including Nando’s and Frankie and Benny’s, to develop a heat exchanger to work in industrial kitchens – reducing energy costs and environmental impact.
  5. Guildhawk employs thousands of translators across the world for hundreds of clients . A project with SIP led to a KTP. At the SHU Innovation Conference 2021. Jurga Zilinskiene MBE, the CEO, told delegates in her keynote address that the KTP helped create an extraordinary SaaS platform that for the first time will help businesses of all sizes to manage people in a fast, easy and secure way.  The partnership resulted in the launch of new software products, Guildhawk Aided, Text Perfect and Guildhawk Voice avatars.


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

Authors: Dr Tom Allen (Manchester Metropolitan University), Prof Andy Alderson (Sheffield Hallam University) and Dr Stefan Mohr (HEAD)

Keywords: Sport, Tennis, Material, Auxetic, Mechanics

Abstract: The case study is interesting as it combines the engaging topics of smart materials and sports engineering, and showcases the release of a sports product. The work is underpinned by academic papers, include a teaching focus one detailing how materials have influenced tennis rackets dating back to the origins of the game. Effect of materials and design on the bending stiffness of tennis rackets: Review of auxetic materials for sports applications: Expanding options in comfort and protection:


This case study is about the application of auxetic materials to sports equipment. Particularly, it is about the development of the first ever tennis racket to feature auxetic fibre-polymer composites [1]. In our work, we aim to combine the exciting fields of sport and advanced materials to engage people with science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM). Indeed, our work is multi-disciplinary. Dr Mohr is the R&D Manager for PreDevelopement at HEAD and brings expertise in tennis racket engineering, Dr Allen and Professor Alderson are academics and bring respective expertise in sports engineering and smart materials.

Dr Allen has been researching the mechanics of sports equipment for many years, with a focus on tennis rackets [2]. One project involved characterising the properties of over 500 diverse rackets dating back to the origins of the game in the 1870s to the present day. The rackets were from various collections, including the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum in London, and HEAD in Kennelbach Austria, where Dr Mohr works. The museum houses particularly old and rare rackets, whereas the collection at HEAD has a broad range of more modern designs. Initial work involved developing techniques for efficiently characterising many rackets [3]. Subsequent publications describe how a shift in construction materials – from wood to fibre-polymer composites – around the 1970s and 1980s led to lighter and stiffer rackets, with shorter handles and larger heads [4], [5]. Indeed, the application of new materials has driven the development of tennis rackets, and further advances are likely to come from developments in materials and manufacturing techniques.

Professor Alderson has been researching smart materials and structures for many years, with a focus on auxetic materials [6]. Auxetic materials have a negative Poisson’s ratio, which means that they fatten when stretched and become thinner when compressed. A negative Poisson’s ratio can enhance other properties, including vibration damping. Dr Allen and Professor Alderson have been working together to apply auxetic materials to sports equipment [7]. Dr Allen discussed this work on auxetic materials with Dr Mohr, and this led to the collaboration between the three parties that resulted in the new racket design [1].

Auxetic fibre-polymer composites were particularly appealing to Dr Mohr for application in tennis rackets, as they can be made using conventional fibres and resins, by simply arranging the fibres in specific orientations [8]. Following a visit to HEAD, where he was able to see the prototyping facilities, Professor Alderson developed various auxetic fibre-polymer composites, using the materials already being used by HEAD to make rackets. HEAD then developed prototype rackets incorporating these auxetic fibre-polymer composites at their research and development facility in Kennelbach. The racket designs were further developed and refined through testing, both in the laboratory and on the tennis court with players providing feedback.  

The first tennis racket with auxetic fibre composites was released in late 2021, in the form of the HEAD Prestige (Figure 1a). The Prestige was followed by the release of a new racket silo (collection) in early 2022 in the form of the Boom (Figure 1b). Drs Mohr and Allen and Professor Alderson are now exploring options for further applying auxetic materials to tennis rackets. Dr Allen’s teaching case study on the historical development of the tennis racket [4] has been enriched by including the story behind the development of the new auxetic fibre-polymer composite rackets [1]. He also includes discussion of emerging topics in the case study that could be applied to tennis rackets, such as more automated manufacturing techniques like additive manufacturing, and more environmentally friendly materials, like natural fibres and resins [5]. We hope that the new tennis rackets will raise awareness of auxetic materials amongst the public, and the case study will help inspire others to use topics like sports engineering and advanced materials to support their STEM teaching and public engagement.  


Figure 1 Examples of HEAD rackets featuring auxetic fibre-polymer composites, a) Prestige Pro and b) Boom Prom.



[1]         HEAD Sports, “Auxetic – The Science Behind the Sensational Feel,” 2021. (accessed Feb. 05, 2022).

[2]         T. Allen, S. Choppin, and D. Knudson, “A review of tennis racket performance parameters,” Sport. Eng., vol. 19, no. 1, Mar. 2016, doi: 10.1007/s12283-014-0167-x.

[3]         L. Taraborrelli et al., “Recommendations for estimating the moments of inertia of a tennis racket,” Sport. Eng., vol. 22, no. 1, 2019, doi: 10.1007/s12283-019-0303-8.

[4]         L. Taraborrelli, S. Choppin, S. Haake, S. Mohr, and T. Allen, “Effect of materials and design on the bending stiffness of tennis rackets,” Eur. J. Phys., vol. 42, no. 6, 2021, doi: 10.1088/1361-6404/ac1146.

[5]         L. Taraborrelli et al., “Materials Have Driven the Historical Development of the Tennis Racket,” Appl. Sci., vol. 9, no. 20, Oct. 2019, doi: 10.3390/app9204352.

[6]         K. E. Evans and A. Alderson, “Auxetic materials: Functional materials and structures from lateral thinking!,” Adv. Mater., vol. 12, no. 9, 2000, doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1521-4095(200005)12:9<617::AID-ADMA617>3.0.CO;2-3.

[7]         O. Duncan et al., “Review of auxetic materials for sports applications: Expanding options in comfort and protection,” Applied Sciences (Switzerland), vol. 8, no. 6. 2018, doi: 10.3390/app8060941.

[8]         K. L. Alderson, V. R. Simkins, V. L. Coenen, P. J. Davies, A. Alderson, and K. E. Evans, “How to make auxetic fibre reinforced composites,” Phys. Status Solidi Basic Res., vol. 242, no. 3, 2005, doi: 10.1002/pssb.200460371.


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; Knowledge exchange.

Authors: Prof Tony Dodd (Staffordshire University); Marek Hornak (Staffordshire University) and Rachel Wood (Staffordshire University).

Keywords: Regional Development Funding, Innovation Enterprise Zone

Abstract: The Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire region registers low in measures of economic prosperity, research and development expenditure, productivity, and higher skills. Staffordshire University has received funding to support regional growth in materials, manufacturing, digital and intelligent mobility and to develop higher skills. Packaged together into the Innovation Enterprise Zone these projects have made positive impacts in the region. This presentation will provide an overview of our approach to regional support and highlight impact and lessons learnt for companies, academics, and students.



The Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire economy underperforms compared to the wider West Midlands and England [1].

Industry is dominated by SMEs with strengths in manufacturing, advanced materials, automotive, logistics and warehousing, agriculture, and digital industries [1].

Aims and Objectives

The aim was to develop an ecosystem for driving innovation, economic growth, job creation and higher skills in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire.

The objectives were to:

Enterprise Zone and Projects

Funding was successfully awarded from ERDF, Research England, and Staffordshire County Council.  The themes of the projects were developed in collaboration with regional partners to identify key strengths and potential for growth.  Each of the projects is match funded by Staffordshire University including through academic time.


Skills development through the Enterprise Academy

The projects are part of the wider Staffordshire University Innovation Enterprise Zone (launched November 2020, Research England) to support research collaboration, knowledge exchange, innovation, and skills development.  This includes space for business incubation and low-cost shared office space in The Hatchery for new start-ups.  We also provide a Creative Lab (funded by Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire LEP) for hosting business-academic meetings and access to the SmartZone equipment for rapid prototyping.

Spotlight on Innovation Projects

To highlight the differences between approaches we highlight two innovation projects.

Staffordshire Advanced Manufacturing, Prototyping, and Innovation Demonstrator (SAMPID) Staffordshire Connected & Intelligent Mobility Innovation Accelerator (SCIMIA)
Advanced manufacturing and product development Connected and intelligent mobility
ERDF funded ERDF funded
SMEs in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire SMEs in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire
12-weeks of funded support Up to 12-months of support
Innovation consultants (students/graduates) Innovation consultants (students/graduates)
Academic supervision, knowledge exchange and business support Academic supervision, knowledge exchange and business support
Dedicated technician support (0.5FTE) Dedicated technician support (0.5FTE)
3x funded PhD students to support projects and develop advanced innovation 2x Innovation and Enterprise Fellows to support technical business engagement
Funded advanced manufacturing equipment (including 3D metal printing, robot arms) and access to equipment in SmartZone Access to equipment in SmartZone


Case study videos:

Lessons Learnt

Business engagement

Project length

Student roles and recruitment

Supporting roles

Academic involvement

Possible future developments


[1] Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (2019).  Local Industrial Strategy – Evidence Base September 2019.  Available from Development of a Stoke-on-Trent & Staffordshire Industrial Strategy (SSIS) (


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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