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.

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The Crucible Project 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.

Degree Apprenticeships Toolkit

In September 2015 the first university-business co-developed Degree Apprenticeship  programmes, were launched – having been designed and eligible for funding under the government’s new model for apprenticeship training (Apprenticeship Standards), and expected to be resourced via the so called “apprenticeship Levy”.

Whilst still at a relatively small scale and early stage, as at March 2016, Apprenticeship Standards are ‘ready for delivery’ at the Degree Apprenticeship level in three discipline areas – two of which are engineering-related.  A further seven are awaiting approval, five of which are engineering-related.

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

 

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.

Royal Academy of Engineering logo“In January 2022, GoodCorporation was tasked with undertaking a Review of Ethical Culture and Practices in UK engineering. The need for the review was one of several actions identified in a report by the Engineering Ethics Reference Group (EERG), whose remit is to provide leadership and advice to help develop an enhanced culture of ethical behaviour in UK engineering.

The overall objective was to develop a benchmark from which the UK engineering profession can periodically audit and report on ethical performance in UK engineering and identify areas for improvement in ethical culture and practice. The exercise would also allow benchmarking against other professions and identify relevant learnings from them.” – The Royal Academy of Engineering

 

 

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: Research

Authors: Dr Grazia Todeschini (King’s College London) and Kah Leong-Koo (National Grid UK)

Keywords: Electrical Engineering, Power Systems, Renewable Energy, Computer Model

Abstract: This case study deals with a collaboration between KCL and National Grid on a EPSRC project. The project deals with assessing the impact of renewable energy sources on the electricity grid. This assessment will be carried out by using a transmission grid model provided by National Grid and device models developed by KCL.

 

Topic of the case study

This case study deals with the development of advanced models to study the impact of renewable energy sources, and more in general, inverter-based devices, on the UK transmission grid. More specifically, this project focuses on the impacts in terms of voltage and current distortion. This topic is referred to as ‘power quality’ in the specialist literature.

Aims

This research was motivated by various reports presented in the technical literature in the last decade, where a general increase of harmonic levels has been observed. A similar trend has been reported in several countries, simultaneously to the installation of increasing levels of renewable energy sources and other inverter-based devices. These reports have created some concerns about harmonic management in the future, when more renewable energy sources will be in services. Ultimately, the project aims at forecasting harmonic levels in 2050, and at determining impact on the equipment, and possible mitigating solutions.

Collaborating parties

This case study involved the collaboration between the Department of engineering at King’s College London and National Grid UK.

Project set up

Power quality is a specialist area within power systems that deals with deviation of voltage and current waveforms from the nominal values, in terms of both amplitude and frequency. The academic PI worked for a few years in the power industry, with the aim of specialising in power quality and understanding the issues faced by the power industry, as well as the tools that are used to carry out power system studies. The industrial PI is an expert in the area of power quality and has been involved with many standardisation groups as well as professional organisation to help developing common tools to harmonise the approach to power quality. Therefore, the two PIs have a similar expertise and background that allowed them to discuss and define common areas of research. When looking to develop such a specialist project, it is very important that all parties involved have a common ground, so that it is possible to interact and work in the same direction.

Outcomes

The project is still not finished, however, some of the original objectives have been achieved:

  1. A 2050 scenario has been developed, by using: transmission system model data provided by National Grid, device models developed through research and testing, and identification of future locations of renewable energy sources. Although the case is still under development, preliminary results indicate that harmonic levels are expected to increase, but they can be managed using existing design practice.

Lessons learned, reflections, recommendations

Further resources

We published two papers and others are in preparation:

 

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.

 

Endnotes

[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.

Conclusion

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.

 

Introduction

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.

Conclusion

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.

References

 

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.

 

Introduction

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.

Aims

Plan

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.

Outcomes

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. 

References

  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.

Aims:

  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.

Objectives:

Scope

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

References

[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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