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Collaboration, innovation and sustainability

Dr Joanna Berry, Associate Professor in Entrepreneurship, talks about working with Boeing, and the development of an exciting new Masters programme to equip students with the skills to accelerate the transition to a Net Zero world.

The last two years have emphasised the challenges facing global aviation – rebuilding after the Covid-19 pandemic is coupled with the need to accelerate the decarbonisation of aviation, to ensure a safe and sustainable future for the sector and wider society. Creating sustainable solutions requires new and innovative answers, with collaboration at the heart of the process.

Working with industry to make an impact

The Business School has always prided itself on working collaboratively and working with Boeing across the last decade is an example of this.

In early October, we represented this collaboration by attending the Boeing Innovation Forum at Glasgow Airport. This was an opportunity to show Boeing’s other industry partners how we have worked together to build innovative thinking across the organisation, as the company looks to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing aviation landscape.

When we were there, Glasgow was gearing up for COP26. Security guards were everywhere, and the 350+ delegates were carefully screened; especially as Scotland’s First Minister, and Sir Martin Donnelly, President of Boeing Europe, were in the same room.

My colleague, MSc Management (Finance) student Dylan McCleaft, and I were inundated with visitors as we discussed the tailored management development programme the School has run for Boeing over the last three years, the executive MBA and DBA programmes, and student projects and internships contributing to the eco- Demonstrator parked outside on the tarmac.

Our academics collaborate with Boeing in early-stage innovation thinking across a range of business ideas, resulting in product and business developments including disruption management, digital NOTAMs (Notices to Airmen), fuel management, and gate turnaround management.

Combining expertise across the University

Our Durham Energy Institute (DEI) colleagues deliver leadership and solutions for energy decarbonisation, and the transition to Net Zero which is so critical to the forthcoming COP26 agenda. Interdisciplinary research exploring solutions to make offshore wind more affordable and a reliable source of energy, exploiting geothermal energy from redundant mine workings, and driving forward the UK hydrogen revolution are just some ways that they are moving this forward.

Working closely with the DEI, and through intense collaboration between the Engineering Department and the Business School, Dr Grant Ingram and I have created the new Master of Energy Systems Management (MESM) which is looking forward to its first cohort in September 2022. This full-time programme brings together the two critical disciplines of engineering and business in a specially designed, customised and innovative new programme.

The programme has been specifically created to inspire and inform a new generation of students, through collaboration both across the University, and with our international industry partners. Our students will emerge uniquely capable of translating between the two worlds of business and engineering practice, informed by the latest in theoretical excellence, to take their place in global companies increasingly under pressure to find creative, innovative ways to go further than simply reaching Net Zero.

Long-term, real-world impact post-COP26

The Strategic Business and Engineering Project which completes the MESM programme, is a unique opportunity for each student to undertake an industry-focused, academically supervised practical piece of work of their own design. It will be rigorously vetted and overseen by a University supervisor, and monitored by an industry partner, and it will ultimately equip each student with a superb live case study for their portfolio, as well as being of practical assistance to the client company.

COP26 may come and go, but the climate change agenda and UN Strategic Development Goals (SDGs) will remain critically important to all political and practical agendas. Grant and I are proud to be contributing to this ongoing work through the new MESM programme and welcome any questions and enquiries.

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