Visiting Professorship in Innovation at University of Leeds

must-do-tick-listIn the last blog, I mentioned there were two key things to complete in my sabbatical “must do” list. One was to publish my debut novel (now done – Buy the book here!). The second was to build upon the relationship I’ve developed with academia to put in place something sustainable which I can continue to support alongside the day job, when I return to IBM in November.

I’ve previously blogged about my involvement with universities including Leeds, Reading and Loughborough, so won’t repeat it here. They are all great institutions but the one closest to my home and heart is the University of Leeds.

raeng-logoI was thinking about this earlier in the year, when I delivered a guest seminar at UCL for a Visiting Professor there. This was Hugh Varilly, a great man I’ve known for many years, from his days in IBM as a Distinguished Engineer. Hugh recommended I look into the highly regarded Visiting Professorship scheme run by the Royal Academy of Engineering.

The RAEng scheme supports experienced engineers and technical leaders from industry to deliver face-to-face teaching and mentoring at a host institution for three years. The major focus is on enhancing the employability of Engineering students. The Visiting Professors are encouraged to also contribute to postgraduate teaching, curriculum development and sustain their impact beyond the three year time frame. This sounded like a great programme and aligned very much with what I wished to do.

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Much of my engagement with the University of Leeds to date had been with the team in the Business School, working with Professor Krsto Pandza and his colleagues in areas related to innovation and the exploitation of emerging technologies to drive business value. A number of these activities directly supported students in both the Business School and the Faculty of Engineering.

In order to discuss the RAEng scheme in more detail, Prof Pandza and I spent time with Professor Peter Jimack, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering. We had a great discussion on how a Visiting Professor could support the employability of students across the five schools in the Engineering faculty by supplementing and supporting the excellent programmes already in place. We discussed ideas for modules and workshops and the need for engineering students to develop above-domain skills, particularly to assist with successful applications for placements and full time jobs and to enable engineers to make an impact once employed. These included innovation and design thinking, commercial awareness, collaboration and client facing skills.


To cut a long story short, we agreed to develop an application for the RAEng VP scheme. I’m delighted to say we’ve been successful and in September 2016 I was appointed RAEng sponsored Visiting Professor for Innovation at the University of Leeds.

Of course, the real work starts now. I’ll be involved in a new workshop, as part of the existing Employability programme led by Emily Timson. Work is starting with Professors Levesley and Pandza to verify potential for a new innovation module, integrating with existing and planned programmes. I’ll work with Assistant Prof Matthew Mount to teach the great new Innovation Management in Practice module (which brings together Engineering and Business School in a very innovative way) and many other things I’m sure.

One of the most positive things for me is that IBM recognises the value of collaborations like this – for the individual, the students, the University and for IBM and its clients too.

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Lastly, I’d like to thank many people for their support over the last year and during the RAEng application process. There are too many to list here but they include Prof Pandza, Prof Jimack, Steve Legg in the IBM Universities programme, Hugh Varilly, Ian Nussey, the RAEng, IBM and University of Leeds teams in general. (Let’s hope I never get invited to the Oscars). Your advice, guidance and wisdom has been invaluable. I’m fortune to have such great support and I’m really looking forward to working with the brilliant team of academics, supporting staff and students at the University of Leeds over the next three years and hopefully beyond.

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