Case study by Imperial College London

Global tech giant Dyson and Imperial are collaborating to train the next generation of problem solvers, technology leaders, and innovative engineers.

Imperial’s Dyson School of Design Engineering, launched in March 2015 following a £12m grant from the James Dyson Foundation, fuses creative design thinking with engineering within a culture of innovation and enterprise. It houses a unique community of students and researchers who are creating innovative solutions to modern global challenges.

The school’s flagship undergraduate programme – Design Engineering (MEng) – was developed in collaboration with Dyson, as well as scores of other industrial stakeholders, specifically to train the next generation of design engineers. The result is an education grounded in the fundamentals of engineering science, with an accompanying emphasis on design thinking, creative problem-solving, and management and communication skills. Students gain experience in the workplace, with undergraduates undertaking a six-month industrial placement and developing entrepreneurial skills through a bespoke module.

Speaking at the launch, Sir James Dyson said: “We want to create engineers who are bold and commercially astute. They will use their skills, nurtured in the Dyson School, to develop future technology that will catalyse Britain’s economic growth.”

The School’s first students are already making their mark on the world. Undergraduate students Josephine Latreille and Leah Pattison, together with Mechanical Engineering student Camille Morand-Duval, worked with International Wheelchair and Ambulatory Sports Federation to develop a low-cost, open-source design for a wheelchair fencing frame. Designed to be built using readily available materials, the team are providing their design free-of-charge in the hope of opening up the sport to the developing world.

In addition to undergraduate provision, the School also offers the Innovation Design Engineering (IDE) and Global Innovation Design (GID) double Masters courses, which have been run jointly with the Royal College of Art for the past three decades.

Many game-changing start-ups have emerged from the programme, including Aeropowder – founded by Elena Dieckmann as an IDE student. Now a PhD student in the School, Elena and her colleagues are turning waste feathers from the poultry industry into new sustainable products and materials. Elena is featured in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 – Europe – Social Entrepreneurs 2017 and was one of 15 recipients of the Innovate UK Women in Innovation Awards. Aeropowder also won the Mayor of London’s Low Carbon Entrepreneurs 2016.

“The course’s emphasis on fast-paced prototyping and testing new ideas meant that by the time I’d finished, I had 4 or 5 potential business ideas ready to go. The course helps you to ground your design in the real world – focussing your mind on finding design and engineering solutions that will have a real impact on people’s lives.” Elena Dieckmann, IDE alumnus and Aeropowder founder

Malav Sanghavi, another IDE alumnus, has already founded two businesses and features in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 – Europe – Science & Healthcare. He was selected as one of two winners at the Vatican Youth Symposium, and took home third prize for LifeCradle, a low-cost baby incubator, at Pitch@Palace, a start-up competition hosted by the Duke of York.

The School has a fast-growing population of both staff and students, including fractional staff actively working in industry. The School expects to grow by 100 people each year for the next few years.

Published: 31 August 2018


This article first appeared in the 2018 State of the Relationship report, commissioned by Research England and compiled and published by NCUB.