UWE leads on inspiring future digital engineers

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The West of England is a hub for innovative Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) industries, but as with the rest of the UK, there is a huge skills and employment gap for future engineers. That’s why the new Digital Engineering Technology & Innovation (DETI) initiative – launched on 15th July – is investing in the future of digital engineering for our region.

UWE Bristol is partnering with DETI to develop regional skills and inspire the region’s next generation of engineers. DETI Inspire will champion science for children in the West of England with a particular focus on breaking stereotypes and challenging perceptions about STEM careers in order to appeal to under-represented groups in engineering.

The skills challenge

Lack of exposure Many children, and particularly those from low socio-economic backgrounds, will have very little exposure to science and may not know adults who work or have worked in STEM careers. This lack of so called “science capital” can have a significant impact on children’s aspirations regarding STEM careers. This is particularly important for young girls, as attitudes towards STEM are largely formed before age 11.

Lack of diversity Another major concern for the engineering workforce is the lack of diversity – with only 12% of women engineers and 7% from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) background.

Changing perceptions Research indicates that presenting engineering as a creative, collaborative profession, working towards socially conscious communal goals will have wider-spread appeal. Therefore DETI is particularly keen to contribute to the West of England’s sustainability and net zero goals.

DETI Inspire

UWE Bristol is establishing an Engineering Engagement Hub to coordinate engineering engagement for schools and families in the West of England, and will work together with DETI industry partners and school engagement providers to:

  • map past engagement activities in the region in order to build a network amongst partners and stakeholders and strategically plan future engagement to multiply/expand impact
  • develop curriculum linked engagement activities to tour schools and run out of the Prototype and Play centre for public engagement at UWE Bristol’s Engineering Building. These engagement activities will include:
    • a touring activity kit that challenges children to use digital engineering tools to tackle sustainability challenges
    • public open events for families and schools
    • 6-week STEM club challenges
    • run teacher CPD events to support and upskill
  • shape a “Diversity Demonstrator” – a network of diverse engineering role models to champion engineering public engagement. Including development of engagement training for this group of student and industry engineers

Building on UWE’s wealth of experience in public engagement

As a core provider of public engagement in the region and champion of equality, diversity and inclusion, UWE Bristol’s Engineering, Design and Mathematics (EDM) department is perfectly positioned to lead DETI Inspire.

EDM engages in local public facing technology fairs and national engineering competitions as well as spearheading various public engagement opportunities initiatives. For instance, members of the Bristol Bioenergy centre developed a microbial fuel cell activity that they use to teach children about electricity.

In addition to this EDM supports primary (Curiosity Connections) and secondary (Future Quest) engagement providers, as well as mentoring programmes such as, Women Like Me and BAME Girls into Engineering, to increase diversity in engineering

DETI Inspire will build and expand from all these existing UWE Bristol programmes. To find out more about DETI go to the official website – deti.uk

DETI is a strategic programme of the West of England Combined Authority (WECA), delivered by the National Composites Centre, in partnership with the Centre for Modelling & SimulationDigital Catapult, the University of the West of England, the University of Bristol, and the University of Bath. DETI is funded by £5m from WECA, with co-investment from the High Value Manufacturing Catapult and industry.

DETI – Digital Engineering Technology & Innovation

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Transforming engineering for the future

The global engineering landscape is shifting. Shorter product development times, faster routes to market and the need for through-life product sustainability for some of the most complex products the world has ever seen provides us with an exciting opportunity. To maintain engineering leadership, UK businesses need to develop new ways of working that enable agility, flexibility and competitive advantage, that will support future generations socially, economically and sustainably.

By the end of this decade, to deliver a low carbon global economy, everything we make will need to be completely re-imagined and re-engineered. Digital technologies will transform the way engineers operate to meet new product demands.  Industry requires new skills and digital test beds, from exploring the best tools to use, the technologies to invest in, to exploiting value from vast quantities of data generated through the product lifecycle. There are few test-grounds to explore and test technologies and processes without disrupting current production line pressure. This is where Digital Engineering Technology & Innovation (DETI)  comes in.

Accelerating digital engineering capabilities and skills

DETI  is starting as a two-year, research and development (R&D) initiative in the West of England. It will bring together advanced engineering companies, digital technology pioneers and universities to push the boundaries of digital engineering for the future, to help UK businesses maintain engineering leadership. DETI will help companies identify and develop the tools, technologies and processes they need to rapidly accelerate digital engineering capabilities and identify the skills needed to embed digital.

Running in parallel is the 5G-Encode Project, led by Zeetta Networks, which will see the NCC host the UK’s strategic 5G test bed and demonstration facility for industrial technologies which underpins DETI and the digitalisation of design and manufacturing.

DETI Partnership

The West of England is home to the UK’s largest advanced engineering and aerospace cluster and a vibrant digital community. As such, the region delivers the expertise, living labs and a technology test bed that companies need to progress.

DETI is a strategic programme of the West of England Combined Authority (WECA), delivered by the National Composites Centre, in partnership with the Centre for Modelling & Simulation, Digital Catapult, the University of the West of England, the University of Bristol, and the University of Bath. Industry partners include Airbus, GKN Aerospace, Rolls-Royce, and CFMS, with in kind contributions from UWE, Digital Catapult and Siemens. DETI is funded by £5m from WECA, with co-investment from the High Value Manufacturing Catapult and industry.

Industry Challenges, Enabling Capabilities and Skills

The DETI Programme will coordinate and deliver on key ‘Industry Challenges’, enabling companies of all sizes to collaborate on ‘proof of concept’ projects that address the barriers to digital transformation. It will deliver ‘Enabling Capabilities’ that establish digital domain expertise and core reusable technology (processes, models, tools and infrastructure).

Encouraging diversity and inclusivity, DETI will initiate a comprehensive ‘Skills’ and workforce development programme to ensure the current and future workforce is digital-ready, inspiring future generations.

To express your interest in joining the DETI programme, visit www.deti.uk or contact the team at deti@nccuk.com

EDM set to lead skills development in new £10 million digital engineering centre

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UWE Bristol will play a central role in a new £10 million digital engineering centre for the region.

The Centre for Digital Engineering Technology & Innovation (DETI) is a research, innovation and skills initiative created to develop and accelerate digital engineering across multiple industry sectors, to ultimately benefit future generations of engineers and engineering products, and to help tackle global challenges.

A collaboration of industry and academic partners, DETI is led by the National Composites Centre (NCC) and supported by the West of England Combined Authority (WECA). WECA awarded £5m to the centre – match £5m investment from West of England businesses who are at the forefront of industry.

EDM’s role

Dr Lisa Brodie, Head of UWE Bristol’s Department of Engineering Design and Mathematics (EDM), who led UWE’s bid, said: “This is a vitally important investment for our region and we are pleased to be leading on the skills and workforce development element of the centre’s work. It comes at a perfect time as we prepare to open our new engineering building where we will have state-of-the-art digital engineering facilities and an increased focus on digital engineering to train our graduates for emerging roles in the sector.”

EDM will create an integrated education and workforce development capability programme, and talent pipeline, all to inspire, introduce, convert and specialise. And it will promote an inclusive diverse workforce, crucial for creativity and innovation.

Training courses related to advanced digital engineering will be developed to increase skills and retrain those in the current workforce.

Schools will also be engaged with, particularly in less affluent parts of the West of England, with the aim to reach 1,000 children and inspire them to pursue a career in digital engineering.

DETI is not a new building but will use existing facilities and assets at various partners facilities, including UWE Bristol’s new engineering building.

Links to the local industrial strategy

West of England Mayor, Tim Bowles said: “DETI will be a nationally important centre, based in the West of England. It will help secure the future of the aerospace and advanced manufacturing industries and is a key part of our Local Industrial Strategy ambition to strengthen cross-sectoral innovation and support our region’s ambition for clean and inclusive growth.”

The centre will work with leading companies and support industry to reduce carbon emissions by producing better products – products that are lighter, more fuel efficient and have less waste – through undertaking research and innovation in the virtual world.

Leader of South Gloucestershire Council, Cllr Toby The Tobester Savage said: “Over the past decade or so the Filton Enterprise Area, UWE Bristol, MoD and the Bristol and Bath Science Park have formed a powerful network of world-leading innovation in aerospace, engineering and defence. We are therefore delighted to see South Gloucestershire hosting the DETI project which we believe will be of national and international significance to the future of clean energy and low carbon transport.

“This geography is increasingly recognised as the South Gloucestershire ‘TEC ARC’ and we look forward to working closely with multiple stakeholders to ensure that the project grows this critical sector of our economy, but also engages widely across the region through schools and colleges to give new experiences and opportunities in the development of STEM skills.”

Organisations investing in DETI alongside WECA and the NCC include UWE Bristol, Airbus, Rolls-Royce, GKN, Baker Hughes and CFMS. DETI will also receive contributions in kind from Siemens and Toshiba. The project has already engaged with over 100 companies across the region, including disrupters TechSPARK and Smartia, and companies covering sectors such as renewable energy, marine, aerospace and electronics.

See the full press release posted on the UWE News pages.

Find out more about the importance of diversity in engineering

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Why is diversity important in engineering? According to, the Royal Academy of Engineering, addressing diversity and inclusion not only helps to bridge the UK’s engineering skills gap, it also drives innovation and creativity. 

“Addressing diversity and inclusion will not only help bridge this gap, it will also help drive innovation and creativity”. 

Royal Academy of Engineering

They present a business case for diversity which includes:

  • Addressing the engineering skills gap;
  • Improved financial importance;
  • Greater innovation and creativity;
  • Inclusion-driven higher business performance;
  • Increased motivation, productivity and retention;
  • Improved customer orientation, and
  • Increased customer satisfaction.

Retention of women in engineering in particular received attention this summer when UWE’s Dr Laura Fogg Rogers and Dr Laura Hobbs published their paper ‘Catch 22 — improving visibility of women in science and engineering for both recruitment and retention‘. Drawing on their mentoring and outreach project Women Like Me, which relaunches next week, they propose that enhancing self-efficacy (Laura Fogg Rogers, along with Dr Tim Moss, also recently published research on a new Engineering Outreach Self-Efficacy Scale) for female scientists and engineers to mentor others will generate more supportive workplaces. Alongside this, supporting a female STEM professionals to undertake public engagement activities improves the visibility of diverse female role models for young girls. Ultimately, these social connections will enhance science capital for girls and other minorities.

Diversity in engineering isn’t just important in the UK. Sharon L. Walker writes about why diversity is key to the future of engineering for the University of California, highlighting the low proportion of women and people with Latino and African-American heritage in the US engineering workforce. Innovation and talent, profit, fair treatment and shifting demographics are explored as some of the reasons behind the need for a more diverse future workforce.

And Kerry Baker, posting on STEM Learning on the importance of diversity in engineering, explains how this affects all of us:

“…have you ever used something and thought: “This doesn’t work how I would like it to” or “If I’d made this I would have put it together differently”? If the answer is yes, then this is the reason why engineering needs people from all backgrounds and walks of life, it needs people with all sorts of different life experiences and thought processes”.

STEM Learning

There’s not just one way to succeed in engineering

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Lisa Brodie is head of the Engineering, Design and Mathematics (EDM)department at UWE Bristol, and so is responsible for all of the flourishing student programs and research centres. In honour of Tomorrow Engineer’s week – a week dedicated to inspire more young people to consider careers in engineering, Lisa tells Engineering our Future why she likes working in EDM and how she is developing the engineering curriculum to make it more inclusive.

Why would you recommend engineering to young people?

There is this perception that you have to have a certain kind of skill and be a certain type of person to be an engineer, but I don’t believe that’s the case. So don’t be put off, just have a go at it, because it’s such a rewarding profession to be in. For me engineering is about being able to make a difference in the world through solving problems, both local and global.

What do you most enjoy about your job?

In the role I’m in, I get the chance to really make a difference. We are changing the way we teach engineering, and because I’m the head of department I have the unique opportunity to drive these changes.

What changes are you making?

We are developing our curriculum so that it’s more inclusive, ensuring that anybody, from any background, can find a way into this career.

I think historically the education system precludes certain types of people from being successful, because it’s heavily examined and a lot of young people don’t find that an easy process to go through. We are trying to create a curriculum with a range of different methods to assess students, so that regardless of background and qualification, there’s the opportunity to succeed.

EDM has recently been re-awarded the Athena Swan Bronze Medal for gender equality. This recognises the diversity of the department, as well as the efforts ensuring gender inclusivity and enabling female progression.

It’s our mission as a department to really make a difference getting women into engineering

Given her success as a female engineer, we asked Lisa how EDM practices have helped her balance work with caring for her three children and elderly mother?

I first came to UWE as a research associate on a fractional contract, and I’ve only been able to work my way through the different roles because of the supportive, flexible culture that exists here for family life and people who have caring responsibilities.

The working practice within the university and EDM is very flexible

There’s no denying that engineering needs a change of image that is vital to encourage young people to fill the engineering skills and diversity shortfall in the UK. In a bid to overcome the overturn the narrow stereotype of engineering, the Royal Academy of Engineering have today launched their image library demonstrating the diversity of the profession – see if you can spot Lisa and other engineers in the department!

UWE has also signed the below pledge to make representative images of engineers and engineering more visible to the public.

The successes of Women Like Me 2018-2019

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In 2018, Women Like Me launched at UWE as a tiered mentoring project for women in engineering. Delivered by Dr Laura Fogg-Rogers and Dr Laura Hobbs, the project was a great success, engaging over 10,000 children with engineering outreach and significantly improving engineers’ confidence. Some findings of the first year’s project report are summarised here.

Only 12% of engineers in the UK are women. For democratic, utilitarian and equity reasons this is not enough. Both recruitment and retention are important – more girls need to connect with engineering as a creative, socially conscious, collaborative discipline, and more women need to be supported to make a difference in the workplace. 


Funded in 2018-2019 by a Royal Academy of Engineering Ingenious grant, the ‘Curiosity Connections – Women Like Me’ project aimed to change this through tiered mentoring and role modelling. Previous research by Laura Fogg-Rogers indicates how important peer group and leadership support is for women, providing vicarious experience and changing social norms. This means that women need peer support to thrive in the workplace, and that girls need to see women succeeding in STEM careers in order to feel that engineering is for them. 


This project therefore paired 21 mid-career (senior) women engineers with 21 junior women engineers (less than five years’ experience) in the Bristol and Bath area, in order to provide career and public engagement mentoring. The outreach activities resulted in over 10,240 children being engaged in public engagement with women engineers, through a variety of methods including school visits, public events and nationwide online presentations. 

Junior engineers felt significantly more equipped to take part in public engagement


The junior engineers reported that they now feel significantly more equipped to take part in public engagement; 54% of junior engineers felt fairly well equipped before the project and this increased to 68% after the project, with 38% indicating they were very well equipped. Similarly, the mean score on the Engineering Outreach Self-Efficacy Scale significantly improved from 6.80 to 8.41 (out of 10). This indicates that the engineers are now much more confident to undertake education outreach, and are then more likely to continue public engagement following the project. 

The report therefore concludes that mentoring is highly important to ensure a supportive workplace, which means that women are more likely to be retained in the engineering industry.

The full report can be downloaded from the UWE research repository and a paper in Journal of Science Communication, drawing on the results, is now available (open access).

Women Like Me will relaunch in October 2019. To express an interest in taking part, please register your email address here.

UWE BEng graduate Gemma Christian featured by Institute of Mechanical Engineers

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From leaving school with no GCSEs to becoming a chartered engineer

UWE Bristol BEng (Hons) in Aerospace Systems Engineering graduate Gemma Christian has been featured by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, describing her non-traditional route into engineering and reminding us that it’s never too late to pursue a career in the industry.

After leaving school with no GCSEs and later reaching UWE through a BTEC in engineering, since graduating Gemma has gone on to complete a Masters, work for Airbus, GE Aviation and Avant, and become chartered. Read her inspiring story on the IMechE website.

UWE Formula SAE success

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Formula SAE is Europe’s most established educational engineering competition. The competition aims to develop enterprising and innovative young engineers and encourage more young people to take up a career in engineering. The format of the event is such that it provides an ideal opportunity for the students to test, demonstrate and improve their capabilities to deliver a complex and integrated product in the demanding environment of a motorsport competition.

UWE is in its sixth year of entering the competition, and for 2019 took on the dual challenge of the home competition at Silverstone as well as Formula student Netherland at the TT track in Assen.

Through four days of inclement weather, the team produced a strong display in Assen. Completing all seven elements of the competition for the first time. Resulting in a sixth place overall finish out of 28 combustion teams on the Thursday.

The main event for the team is always the home event at Silverstone, where they entered with confidence their engineering was good and well tested in the Netherlands. The team surpassed their previous efforts achieving their best ever statics and dynamics points haul. The final outcome, an overall seventh place out of 81 teams and fourth best of the UK teams.

Winning Leaders Award prototype unveiled at exhibition at UWE Bristol

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Last year, Hugh Sexy CE Middle School student Philippa Griffiths designed the Red Line Braking System for the Leaders Award competition, in response to the question “If you were an engineer, what would you do?”

The Leaders Award sets this challenge to encourage children to identify a problem that engineering could solve, and devise a solution. Philippa’s invention was picked as a winning design for the South West, and then selected to be turned into a working prototype by a team of UWE Bristol engineers. Philippa’s design displays variable red lights on the back of a vehicle to alert other drivers of the severity of the braking and levels of attention needed.

Our team of female student engineers from the university’s Women in Science and Engineering Society, including some taking part in our Royal Academy of Engineering funded project Women Like Me, turned Philippa’s idea into reality, visiting her school during the process and providing updates as they went.

Our team are:

The prototype was unveiled at the South West Leaders Award exhibition at UWE Bristol on Friday 14th June 2019 by Philippa, Katy and Miriam. The prototype, along with this year’s shortlisted entries, was also on display on Saturday 15th June at the University’s Exhibition and Conference Centre (ECC). Hundreds of visitors of all ages were able to try it out, as well as taking part in exciting STEM activities provided by the MOD, Aerospace Bristol, and UWE. The displays included having a go with drones, Lego Mindstorm, and a virtual reality tour of the new Engineering Building.

Congratulations to Philippa and the team for designing and creating a fantastic new engineering solution!

UWE Bristol Engineering student featured in The Guardian

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The UWE Bristol MEng Aerospace Engineering course, and student Prisilla Johnson who has also gained a private licence with a UWE Bristol partner flying school in the US, have been featured in The Guardian.

“Prisilla Johnson always dreamed of becoming a pilot. Now, studying MEng aerospace engineering at UWE Bristol, she’s not only making her dream come true, but also playing her part in boosting gender equality in engineering

It’s great to see in the article that Prisilla feels that she has been able to grow at UWE Bristol through the opportunities that have been offered to her. The full feature can be read here.

Header image: Jonathan Cherry/Guardian