Engineers need to have a full grasp of the technical competencies across traditional engineering areas, including numerical and design skills as well as an ability to be effective in knowledge-driven organisations through working as part of engineering teams and projects. But will this be enough for the engineer of the future?
At the Nathu Puri Institute (NPI) for Engineering and Enterprise at London South Bank University (LSBU), we believe that engineers need to gain access to the latest knowledge and tools to help them become more enterprising – developing an idea from concept through to a new product or service and being entrepreneurial to develop a new business venture as well as managing the development of new technologies and engineering projects.
The Institute was established at LSBU in 2011, following a generous donation by the Puri Foundation. The Institute was founded by Emeritus Professor Rao Bhamidimarri and in 2018 LSBU appointed Professor Simon Philbin as the Institute Director.
Access our annual reports for further details about the Institute:
The Institute undertakes an integrated set of research, education and knowledge exchange activities focused on engineering and enterprise. This includes research projects in different areas, such as increasing our understanding of entrepreneurial pivoting; investigating different aspects of sustainable engineering and renewable energy technologies; improving our understanding of digital transformation; developing improved processes for project management; as well as investigating emerging technologies and the process of technological innovation.
The Institute delivers educational programmes associated with engineering and enterprise, including in areas such as technology evaluation and commercialisation as well as project management. The Institute also acts as a knowledge hub for engineering and enterprise – sharing this knowledge with others and developing new collaborations with partners in the UK and internationally.
For more information or if you have any queries, please email: NPI@lsbu.ac.uk.
Simon joined LSBU in 2018. He previously worked as Director of Programme Management at Imperial College London and while at Imperial over 15 years, he held a number of senior management roles. Before Imperial he worked for an agency of the Ministry of Defence (DERA). Simon holds a BSc and PhD in chemistry and an MBA. He is published across several areas including project management, research & technology management, sustainable engineering, and chemistry. He has presented his work at conferences across North America and Asia. He previously served as the 2019/20 President of the American Society for Engineering Management (ASEM).
Pavan Kumar Sala
Role: Doctoral Researcher, Nathu Puri Institute for Engineering and Enterprise
Pavan holds a Bachelor degree (B.Tech) in Mechanical Engineering from the JNT University in India. He went on to complete his MBA at the ICFAI business school. After graduating, he joined the HDFC Bank, one of India’s leading and largest private sector banks as a Relationship Manager. His role included providing financial advice, marketing, sales and investment portfolio management for private high net individuals. He is a certified Credit Risk Manager and a Certified Project Finance Analyst.
Sunita joined the Nathu Puri Institute in January 2017. She provides project and administrative support for the Institute. Prior to joining the education sector, Sunita worked in the private sector delivering technological change and service improvement projects for global organisations, such as Ernst & Young LLP, Accenture and BP.
Understanding how high-tech entrepreneurs successfully pivot as part of the entrepreneurial journey
Doctoral Researcher: Pavan Kumar Sala
This research study focuses on the practices of high-tech entrepreneurs in order to understand the impact that pivoting, i.e. changing direction has on their entrepreneurial journey. The research considers the types of pivots available, the possible factors that trigger pivoting and the impact that this change has on high-tech enterprises. A series of detailed interviews have been conducted with tech entrepreneurs in the UK in order to gain a detailed understanding of entrepreneurial pivoting and the impact of technology.
Enabling digital transformation for SMEs from the food and beverage sector
Prof. Philbin is involved in a research project with the University of Johannesburg in South Africa to investigate how SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) from the food and beverage sector undergo the process of digital transformation. Prof. Arnesh Telukdarie is leading the project from the University of Johannesburg. The project has been funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Newton Fund as part of the Engineering X – Transforming Systems through Partnership (TSP) Programme. SMEs and in particular those from the food and beverage sector face major challenges in regard to digital transformation and the wider adoption of emerging Industry 4.0 related technologies, such as the internet of things and machine learning. The collaborative research project involves a systematic investigation of the technology pathways for digitalization as well as identifying digital transformation best practice in order to develop an innovative digital platform. The project will also work with a number of collaborative network partners in South Africa in order to engage SMEs on digital transformation and share knowledge generated by the project.
Research on renewable energy technologies
The NPI undertakes research into the adoption of various renewable energy technologies. This includes the use of techno-economic assessment and numerical modelling to investigate solar and wind power generation as well as studies on the adoption of carbon capture, storage and utilization (CCSU) technologies.
Research on sustainable engineering
The NPI is involved in various international research collaborations exploring different aspects of sustainable engineering. This includes the environmental management of critical infrastructure and other studies focused on improving the sustainability of the built environment as well as collaborative research on the circular economy approach applied to data centres.
Research on project management
The NPI is engaged in different research studies in the area of project management. This includes research on the impact of leadership on project management as well as other studies on developing improved risk management for renewable energy projects.
Research on engineering education
The NPI has an ongoing research focus in the area of engineering education, skills and industry alignment. This includes understanding the optimal methods available to embed enterprise in engineering education as well as the development of wider professional skills to improve the employability of engineers.
Previous research projects
Measuring infrastructure projects sustainable development goals impact
This research project was conducted by the doctoral researcher Paul Mansell. Engineering projects are a fundamental mechanism to deliver the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) priorities but a restricted ‘output/finance’ definition of project success undermines the likelihood of achieving the 2030 SDG targets - this research aimed to develop a theory-led approach to close the gap. The research study focused on understanding if existing infrastructure project measurements capture SDG impact. It used empirical evidence from a survey of 325 engineering project managers and 40 interviews with leaders from engineering organisations’ to analyse a current gap in measuring the societal objectives of the SDGs at the project level. The development and testing of a theoretical model and proposed methodology were completed with the UK Environment Agency (EA). Based on the success of this research work, the findings were communicated to the UK Government’s Cabinet Office in order to inform how to develop further trials to test the wider applicability of the SDG measurement approach across EA’s £5.2Bn flood prevention portfolio and potentially across all of UK’s portfolio of major infrastructure projects.
Creative engineering for a sustainable future
This research project was conducted by the doctoral researcher Thomas Empson. This research study focused on creative engineering for a sustainable future, utilising a system level perspective framework to measure the contextual pressures facing engineers and businesses today. The framework was applied to case study projects to collate and analyse data relating to the impact that social, environmental and economic factors have on the ability to produce creative engineering solutions. The findings will enable engineering organisations to consider improved management and control of creativity within sustainability initiatives.
Research study on industry 4.0 and open innovation
The aim of this research was to analyse how R&D collaborations contribute to business innovation in Brazilian and European industrial firms in the context of Industry 4.0 and digital transformation. The research was conducted by Ms. Clarissa Rocha from the Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná (PUCPR) in Brazil, under the supervision of Prof. Carlos Quandt and Prof. Fernando Deschamps, and in collaboration with Prof. Philbin from the NPI. As part of the research collaboration, Clarissa was a Visiting Researcher at NPI in the UK for 6 months (2019 to 2020). The research utilised the open innovation theoretical concept in high-tech manufacturing. It used qualitative empirical evidence from interviews with managers of Brazilian and UK manufacturers directly involved in digital projects. The findings enable manufacturers to understand more about the antecedent factors in preparing for the change towards digitalisation through engaging with external actors to accelerate the operationalization of digital initiatives.
NPI teaching activities
Technology Evaluation and Commercialisation Masters Level Module
Prof. Simon Philbin is the module leader for the LSBU School of Engineering Master’s level Technology Evaluation and Commercialisation (TEC) module. In this module, postgraduate students are guided towards identifying an emerging technology idea that is evaluated for its commercial potential. Detailed research and analysis is conducted according to a prescribed algorithmic model in order to evaluate the business potential of the technology. This allows the students to develop an appropriate commercialisation strategy for the technology and write the business plan for a potential high-tech start-up company.
Technical, Research and Professional Skills Masters Level Module
Prof. Simon Philbin is the module leader for the LSBU School of Engineering Master’s level Technical, Research and Professional Skills (TRAPS) module. This module provides an education on the knowledge and skills that are necessary for successful completion of the research dissertation in the near future and for professional development in the long-term future. The module includes a thorough grounding on research methods, data analysis and associated aspects concerning the research process. The students are required to prepare a feasibility study report for their proposed Master’s research project and present a summary of the report as part of meeting the requirements for the module assessment.
Innovation and Enterprise Undergraduate Level Module
Working as a Tutor, Sunita Selvarajan supports the delivery of the Innovation and Enterprise module, which is an undergraduate module in the School of Engineering. The module is delivered to approximately 230 final year engineering students. Sunita facilitates student discussion during lectures and provides input during tutorial sessions, linking the subject material taught on the module with the world of commerce. She also supports students to complete the Entrepreneurial Skills for Engineers online course, developed by the NPI team in partnership with the IET (Institution of Engineering and Technology).
Other Teaching Activities
Prof. Simon Philbin delivers guest lectures and seminars in areas such as project management, research and technology management as well as other areas associated with engineering and enterprise. Prof. Philbin also serves as an external examiner at different universities.
Coaching for student development
LSBU’s strategy and vision is to transform lives, communities, businesses and society through applied education and insight. In particular the university is also keen to help reduce the attainment gap and employment opportunities for students from a minority background. Sunita Selvarajan is leading on a pilot initiative to introduce professional coaching to undergraduate students. The objective is to provide students with the necessary tools and skills to develop and attain their academic and personal goals.
Links with other professional societies and organisations
NPI team members have links and participate in ongoing initiatives with a range of different professional engineering societies and other organisations. Prof. Simon Philbin is associated with the American Society for Engineering Management (ASEM) and he previously served as the 2019/20 President of ASEM. Prof. Philbin is also associated with the Society of Research Administrators (SRA) International as a Distinguished Faculty Member.
Previous research conducted by Paul Mansell involved collaboration with the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), Building Research Establishment (BRE) and University College London (UCL). While former researcher Thomas Empson worked closely with the Design Museum.
Online course available from the IET Academy
The NPI team developed a new online course in partnership with the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) called ‘Entrepreneurial Skills for Engineers’. The course is available through the IET Academy and aims to equip individuals from the engineering community with the skills to become more innovative and entrepreneurial. The course provides the skills and knowledge that engineers can use as part of the entrepreneurial journey to develop innovative ideas through to new products and businesses.
The course has the following units:
Ideation and creativity
Leveraging research and development
Capturing market needs
Managing innovation projects
Leading the team
Strategic business development
Driving continuous improvement into your business
When the course was launched, Martin Davies, Head of Digital Learning from the IET commented: “At the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) we understand that as new technologies emerge and markets become more competitive, it is essential that engineers develop the skills to operate in an innovative and entrepreneurial way and so we are delighted to have worked with LSBU on this unique online course for engineers.”
The IET is the professional society for the engineering and technology community, with more than 150,000 members in 127 countries.
The Great Competition by the Design Museum
Former NPI Research Fellow Thomas Empson previously had a leading role in The Great Competition as the Project Facilitator of this UK wide competition delivered by the Design Museum and funded by the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851. As part of his role, Thomas helped to write the competition brief, develop an outreach lecture on sustainable manufacturing and was responsible for production as well as assisting in the recruitment of several hundred students from across the country to take part in the competition. The project required Thomas to visit universities across the UK to give a presentation on the competition and the importance of sustainable design. This included presenting at LSBU as well as visiting Ravensbourne University, Brunel University, Warwick University, Teesside University, Falmouth University, University of Hertfordshire, London College of Communication and Leeds University. Thomas presented at the launch of the Great Competition and at the final award ceremony, both held at the Design Museum in London. This initiative was a fantastic success in engaging cross-disciplinary student teams to design sustainable design solutions.
NPI Symposium on Innovation in Engineering Education at the Global Engineering Congress, Institution of Civil Engineers, London, October 2018
The Global Engineering Congress (GEC) was held in October 2018 at the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) in London. The conference focused on the capacity of the global engineering profession to tackle the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. In parallel with the GEC event, the NPI team organised in conjunction with ICE the ‘NPI Symposium on Innovation in Engineering Education’.
This event included attendees from industry, universities and various professional societies – including several international attendees. The symposium had a number of presentations by members of the NPI team and also by invited speakers. These presentations were in areas such as entrepreneurship for development, engineering innovation, understanding the role of creativity in meeting the SDGs, developing engineers for global challenges, and the engineering curriculum for the 21st Century.
The Symposium provided an opportunity for the attendees to discuss the current and emerging trends in engineering education in the context of the sustainable development goals as well as the industrial needs for graduate engineers. The Symposium prompted several key topics for ongoing discussions amongst the various attendees.
NPI Thought Leadership Event at the Royal Society in London, July 2018
Following on from the first Nathu Puri Institute for Engineering and Enterprise Thought Leadership event held in April 2018, the Institute embarked on a second event at the Royal Society in London in July 2018. The focus of this event was to discuss and understand ‘The Role of Industry in Promoting Innovation in the Engineering Profession’.
The event again included senior representatives from industry as well as several leading universities and professional engineering societies. The event involved discussions on the changing nature of engineering education as well as the needs of industry for engineers with a wider set of skills beyond the traditional technical foundation. The attendees also discussed the need for innovation both within industry and in regard to curriculum development at universities. It was agreed that there is significant potential for the NPI to address these requirements.
NPI Thought Leadership Event at the Royal Society in London, April 2018
Engineers face continued challenges to meet the demands of the world’s population that has quadrupled over the last one hundred years. Indeed, industry and others have become concerned over the innovative capacity and the predominantly technical focus of engineering education to meet these demands. In order to understand these views, the Nathu Puri Institute for Engineering and Enterprise hosted their first Thought Leadership discussion and dinner at the Royal Society in London in April 2018 entitled ‘Creativity and Innovation in the Engineering Profession’.
The event included senior representatives from industry as well as several leading universities and professional engineering societies. There was discussion on engineering skills development and the industrial requirements for engineering graduates as well as the role of creativity in engineering. Attendees agreed that these were valid areas for the NPI team to be tackling.