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Industrial Advisory Group

In June 2012, we launched our Engineering Industrial Advisory Group (IAG), now chaired by Colin Bulled of Renishaw. The IAG meet three times a year to act as independent advisors on matters of policy and future direction of the Department of Engineering and to work with the Head of Department and staff to determine and agree matters of priority for Department of Engineering activities.

We would like to thank the members of our IAG for agreeing to give up their time in this way.

Please see below for some of our members and to find out further information about them:


Name: Professor Ruth Allen

Current organisation and role: Managing Director - RSKW Ltd

Experience and qualifications: I am a Chartered Civil Engineer, with 40 years’ experience in the provision of management and technical consultancy to regulated industries in the UK and internationally. My focus has been in infrastructure - covering water, energy and transport. I have run a variety of businesses in the Engineering Consultancy sector and formed RSKW Ltd in 2008. I believe it is important to remain close to the technical work the company does and have always worked as a technical/management consultant as well as a chief executive.

What was your motivation for joining the IAG: I have been associated with the University of Exeter and the College since 2001. I am passionate about engineering and, in particular, working to motivate young people to ‘join’ and remain in the profession. I believe that strong links between academia and industry are fundamental to the success of energising that motivation. I also truly enjoy working with young engineers and the innovation and creativity they can bring to a project or concept.

How do you see the IAG contributing towards engineering teaching at Exeter: It’s important for teaching and course content to keep pace with the needs of industry. Regular contributions and challenge from the wide range of experienced professionals in the IAG will ensure that Exeter is at the forefront of understanding the latest requirements of engineering know-how and is responding accordingly. Members of the IAG can also take part in student enrichment work and in making ‘classroom’ work as exciting as possible through role play exercises – applying real world context to the taught theory.

What special expertise do you bring to the group: I have worked for a water utility and spent many years running and working in engineering consultancy companies. I have run medium to large companies and started my current business from scratch. Technically I have specialised in asset management, water, wastewater, regulation, investment planning and construction. I have also delivered management consultancy associated with technical change and operational service delivery. This has been done in the UK as well as internationally. I have created and established industry groups aimed at supporting young engineers in their careers and have learned a lot from doing this. See Pipeline Industries Guild Professional Development Network and the Ruth Allen Award for information.

What skills do you think are most important in an engineer: Engineering is really all about problem solving. Engineers need to be able to think of creative ways to approach, evaluate and resolve those problems. The best engineers are those who can get their ideas across to non-engineers. Increasingly industry needs good communicators who work with enthusiasm and empathy – people who are reliable, well organised who plan well and are and thorough with keen attention to detail. Engineering skills underpin all of this.


Name: Steve Austen

Current organisation and role: Engineering Director and Chief Engineer for SC Group/Supacat Ltd

Experience and qualifications:

  • BEng(Hons) CENG FIMechE MRINA
  • 30 years in engineering across marine, composites, automotive and defence sectors covering concept, design, fabrication, repair and maintenance, including engineering leadership and management

What was your motivation for joining the IAG:

  • To contribute governance and industrial relevance to the engineering courses at UoE
  • Provide a conduit to graduates, undergraduates and academic staff wanting to access industry

How do you see the IAG contributing towards engineering teaching at Exeter:

  • Providing contemporary industrial context and relevance to course content and subject matter for case studies & projects
  • Assisting students and staff progress their professional engineering membership classification should they wish to do so.

What special expertise do you bring to the group: Coaching & mentoring

What skills do you think are most important in an engineer:

  • An enquiring and sceptical mind
  • To know what they don’t know, including when to seek help
  • Ability to break a problem down into resolvable components
  • To communicate an engineering problem to non-engineers, including articulation of risk (safety, environmental, commercial)

Name: Professor Colin Bulled

Current organisation and role: Renishaw plc. General Manager Renishaw Exeter

Experience and qualifications: 38 years of experience in development of cutting-edge products for motion and control, measurement systems and ultra-high precision machine design. I have a MSc in control engineering and have been a member of the IEE/IET for over 20 years.

What was your motivation for joining the IAG: Collaboration between academia and industry is of course essential to help ensure course relevance and help shape course content from an industrial perspective and allow employers a forum into which to communicate issues concerning industry. I have been a member of the Industrial Advisory Board for many years a rewarding pursuit that allows me to feedback from Renishaw, meet with academic and student representatives and compare notes with other industrial members.

How do you see the IAG contributing towards engineering teaching at Exeter: To help the University give relevance to courses and give students the confidence that studying at the University of Exeter will give them a valuable degree and best chance at employment. Conversely to ensure that students enter the workplace with all the skills necessary to contribute to the success of the business as soon as they start work which is rewarding for both student and employer.

What special expertise do you bring to the group: Diversity. I manage a wide range of engineering resources, electrical, mechanical, software, mathematics, physics and control systems. So, I have a good understanding of the academic needs of students in these areas. Working for a large organisation I can call upon colleagues and staff within the wider context of Renishaw to offer expert opinions to gain input on a larger scale.

What skills do you think are most important in an engineer:

  1. A passion for the respective discipline. This will be demonstrated by a keenness to play with engineering outside of University. Anything from rebuilding an engine to an Arduino project show underlying drive.
  2. A very good understanding of engineering fundamentals.
  3. Not being afraid to admit when you don’t know something – this is the main blocker to learning when a student starts work.
  4. Being enquiring, wanting to know how everything works, the best engineers have a history of taking things apart and being left with a jam jar full of bits when they try to put it back together again.


Name: Kay Denham

Current organisation and role: Head of Design & Engineering (South West) at nmcn Ltd 

Experience and qualifications:

  • BEng (hons) Mechanical Engineering
  • MSc Water and Wastewater Technology
  • Chartered Engineer (CEng), Engineering Council UK
  • Member of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers

I have 18 years of experience within the Water Industry, starting my career as a CAD technician, design engineer, senior design engineer, Design Manager to my current role of Head of Design and Engineering.

What was your motivation for joining the IAG:

To understand how Universities are tackling the challenge of attraction to traditional courses, equally how the curriculums are being shaped to make undergraduates industry ready.

How do you see the IAG contributing towards engineering teaching at Exeter:

Supporting the Engineering department to make the courses more relevant to the challenges students will encounter outside the walls of a lecture theatre.

What special expertise do you bring to the group:

I manage teams across the South West serving a range of clients within the Water sector. The teams are multi-disciplined, Mechanical, Electrical, Process, Civil and Structural. I have skills in leadership and management as well as a good understanding of differing client standards, process and governance procedures which cross a range of functions across delivery not just “pure” engineering.

What skills do you think are most important in an engineer:

  • To be a good communicator
  • Understand interfaces and challenges other disciplines face
  • Be a team player
  • A desire to learn
  • Be able to work to deadlines
  • Commercial and contractual awareness


Name: Karl Friedrich

Current organisation and role: Hoare Lea LLP, Partner

Experience and qualifications:
I have over 32 years of experience as a mechanical designer, project associate and now project partner and have worked on a wide range of complex schemes both locally and nationally. With extensive experience of the healthcare and education sector with respect to mechanical and electrical engineering and sustainability aspects, I regularly advise, professional, client and team members on many aspects of these sectors. As partner, I am also accountable for work winning, office management and resource.

What was your motivation for joining the IAG:
As I am already actively involved in Hoare Lea’s support of a variety of schools, colleges and universities, joining the IAG will enable to me to increase my involvement in this important initiative. As a firm, we regularly provide learning opportunities for young people via work experience and placements. Inspiring young people to engage with engineering is a particular passion of mine and I regularly organise various presentations, debates and events based around ‘digital engineering’ recognising the importance of generating interest within the younger generation and the careers guidance bodies. I believe that our firm’s contribution to the wider Government campaign to solve the skills shortage in engineering, is vital in helping to increase diversity in the industry and I am proud to be a part of that initiative.

How do you see the IAG contributing towards engineering teaching at Exeter:
It is important that industry and education work together to help give students a complete perspective of the engineering industry. When firms help support learning institutions by offering up to date and relevant information about the wider engineering sector, and what firms are looking for in their graduates, this can only help better prepare students for the wider world of work as well as inspiring young people to become involved with engineering.

What special expertise do you bring to the group:
Not only can I bring an immense wealth of engineering knowledge to the group, I can also bring my experience of working with other schools, colleges & universities having presented to many of these organisations in the past and can offer ideas as to how best I think the IAG can contribute to the engineering teaching at Exeter.

What skills do you think are most important in an engineer:
Not only does an engineer need effective technical skills, creativity and problem solving skills, they also need to be commercially aware, which is where the IAG can help greatly, have the ability to work under pressure and to be able to work effectively as a team.


Name: Steve Gerry

Current organisation and role: Secretary & Treasurer of the Plymouth Manufacturers’ Group (or ‘PMG’)

Biography: Steve Gerry is a freelance business and economic development consultant. Aside from undertaking a number of commissions for private sector clients and the University of Plymouth and City College Plymouth, since 2008, he’s been Secretary & Treasurer of the PMG, a network of 60 local manufacturers which is currently enjoying its 40th anniversary this year. At 12%, Plymouth has the highest concentration of manufacturing employment of any City south of the Midlands . It accounts for 16% of the local economy and contributes nearly £1Bn GVA pa.

His non-executive positions include: Board Member, NHS Plymouth PCT (2007-11); Chairman of Guinness Hermitage Housing Association’s SW Area Committee (2005-13). Prior to this, Steve had a lengthy career in the Electricity Supply Industry, where with SW Electricity plc he was a senior management consultant and business analyst. After completing his MBA, he was seconded as Business Development Manager with South West Enterprise Ltd (SWEL), a private sector economic development lobby group and went on to become Executive Partnership Director of Plymouth 2020 Local Strategic Partnership (2000-03).

Steve has undertaken a number of voluntary positions including Chair of Governors at a local Primary School (1999-2017) and Young Enterprise Advisor (1998 – on-going).

[1] Centre for Cities Update 2018


Name: Chris Rogers

Current organisation and role: Technical Director with Sweco UK.

Sweco plans and designs the communities and cities of the future. The results of our work are sustainable buildings, efficient infrastructure and access to clean water. With 15,000 employees in Northern Europe, we offer our customers the right expertise for every project. We carry out projects in 70 countries annually and Sweco is Europe’s leading architecture and engineering consultancy.

Experience and qualifications: I have a degree in Civil Engineering and I’m a Chartered Engineer and Chartered Water and Environmental Manager. Together with this I’m a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers and a Member of the Institution of Water and Environmental Management.

I started my career working for contractors which was invaluable to help me understand the construction process, how construction sites operate and the importance of good design. For the last 30 years I have worked for four consulting engineers working on mainly water based projects both in the UK and overseas.

What was your motivation for joining the IAG: I am passionate about peoples careers and career development – I had some great mentors when I was learning about engineering and I want to continue that legacy.

How do you see the IAG contributing towards engineering teaching at Exeter: I see the members of the IAG providing real world experience of current opportunities, problems and practices which will help graduates be able to deliver huge benefits and make a tangible difference when they start work.

What special expertise do you bring to the group: I consider myself lucky to be based in Exeter and have the opportunity to travel across the world on water projects. This exposure to different cultures and ways of working helps me look at projects from a range of viewpoints.

What skills do you think are most important in an engineer: An Engineer needs so many skills these days and many of them are based around IT and the packages that we use to deliver designs. A critical skill is to understand if the data produced from these packages is correct and we cannot get away from the basic Engineering knowledge that this requires.


Name: Peter H von Lany

Current organisation and role: Technical Lead – Strategic Water Planning, Jacobs Engineering.

Experience and qualifications: I have 40 years of international experience as a Consulting Engineer; and have advised or worked with national and international public and private sector clients in over twenty countries throughout the world.

My key areas of expertise are in strategic decision analysis, using optimisation and simulation modelling and risk-based decision-making techniques to solve engineering and planning problems. I have applied these techniques to a range of strategic planning and economic development challenges relating to climate-change adaptation; sustainable water resources allocation and flood risk management.


  • BA, Engineering, University of Cambridge (1974); MA awarded in 1976
  • MSc (Distinction), Management Science, University of Lancaster (1985)
  • Chartered Engineer (CEng), Engineering Council, UK (1981)
  • Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers
  • Member of the Operational Research Society

Roles in other organisations

  • Convenor, panel on climate change adaptation within the British Standards Institution Committee on Greenhouse Gas Management and Climate Change Adaptation (since 2017)
  • Trustee, Action Ethiopia, raising funds for sustainable water and land use in Ethiopia (since 2014)
  • Member of the International Water Forum
  • Member of the International Water Association
  • Visiting Lecturer – MSc, Water Science, Policy and Management, University of Oxford (2005 – 2010)
  • Visiting Lecturer – MSc, Sustainable Environmental Management, University of Plymouth (2006 – 2011)

What was your motivation for joining the IAG: Through the IAG I hope to share insight I have gained into how engineering is key to addressing many of the water, energy, climate change and development challenges that we currently face throughout the world. These challenges are set out in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to which the international community signed up in 2015.

How do you see the IAG contributing towards engineering teaching at Exeter: I am keen that the IAG contributes to ensuring that undergraduate engineering at Exeter can equip engineering students with a breadth and depth of skills and understanding required to apply Engineering effectively to challenges such as those outlined above.

What special expertise do you bring to the group: My expertise lies in helping to develop infrastructure systems that are robust, resilient and adaptive in the face of climate change so that they can meet socio-economic expectations and environmental requirements whilst contributing to sustainable development.

What skills do you think are most important in an engineer: The ability to integrate an understanding of the fundamentals of engineering science with a strong appreciation of the different ways in which engineering is essential to enhancing the prosperity, economic efficiency, safety and well-being of the societies in which we live.


Name: Mark Westcott

Current organisation and role: Mechanical Design Engineer at Babcock International Group (Marine – Defence Systems Technology)

Experience and qualifications:

  • MEng Mechanical Engineer
  • I have worked in manufacturing, aerospace, automotive and marine industries

What was your motivation for joining the IAG: I was a member as a student at Exeter University, and now recently recruited into a graduate scheme in industry I have a unique perspective within the group. My motivation is to improve the quality of students leaving the university and trying to retain more talent to the south west. I am also interested in what business opportunities can be identified in partnership with the University as well as improving our own recruitment.

How do you see the IAG contributing towards engineering teaching at Exeter: It will improve the quality and employability of graduates by keeping the courses relevant to industry.

What special expertise do you bring to the group: As a previous student member of the IAG, I have knowledge of the course structure and teaching, and I am currently going through a graduate training programme and have recently gone through the recruitment process. I am also part of an international company with sectors in civil and military applications.

What skills do you think are most important in an engineer: Communication is key. To be able to talk to manufacturers, suppliers and your own team as well as understanding business aims and objectives will help you to provide better solutions.

Having the confidence to challenge ideas and to be resilient is also useful, but difficult to master and often comes with experience. It will help to persuade and present ideas as well as to challenge the norms and improve the business.