Press Releases

Transforming buildings and infrastructure through a new mode of design in the digital economy – University of Reading

Release Date : 15 September 2009

A new Research Centre to create novel engineering solutions for design in the digital economy is being set up at the University of Reading's School of Construction Management and Engineering.

Dr Jennifer Whyte, a Reader in Innovation and Design in the School, has been awarded a £1 million grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council's (EPSRC) Challenging Engineering Programme. Her vision is of a new mode of design in the digital economy and, through the new Design Innovation Research Centre (DIRC), she will lead research to develop the tools and processes needed by engineers and designers in the 21st century.

Dr Jennifer Whyte, Director of the Design Innovation Research Centre from the University of Reading,

said: "Innovation in design is crucial to UK competitiveness and sustainability. The UK has particular strengths in engineering design, but it must develop new skills to compete as digital technologies distribute design activities across global networks of manufacturing and use.

"There are broad and unrealised opportunities to transform design practices using emerging visual interfaces. The proposed work is important in grasping these rapidly developing opportunities to develop tools and processes that support shared design inquiry."

The funding will create DIRC, a new kind of engineering laboratory developing new ways of visualizing digital models for shared design inquiry. It is open and networked, with a digital and physical infrastructure that enables the research team to work across traditional boundaries. The team within the Centre will be inter-disciplinary, international and engaged with industry. This work of the Centre involves scientific studies of design practices on major projects and programmes and playful engineering in the laboratory to develop new solutions that will connect designing with making and using.

In its first five years, Dr Whyte's new Centre is being funded by the EPSRC's Challenging Engineering programme, which supports future research leaders. This is the second consecutive year in which the University of Reading has successfully bid for this funding. Last year, Dr Janet Barlow gained funding for the Advanced Climate Technology Urban Atmospheric Laboratory (ACTUAL), which is investigating the impact that buildings themselves have on London's changing climate.


Further information from Alex Brannen, Media Relations Manager, on 0118 378 7388

Notes to editors:

Dr Jennifer Whyte is available on Tuesday 15 and Wednesday 16 September for interview. Please call the press office number above to arrange.

The Design Innovation Research Centre will have a core team of 4 post-doctoral researchers and 6 PhD students. It has an associate membership (from across the university), international associates (from USA, Australia and Finland) and industrial collaborators (Arup, Bentley, Fulcro, Halcrow and Vinci). A repository of international best practice will be developed.

The University of Reading is ranked as one of the UK's top research-intensive universities. The quality and diversity of the University's research and teaching is recognised internationally as one of the top 200 universities in the world. The University is home to more than 50 research centres, many of which are recognised as international centres of excellence such as agriculture, biological and physical sciences, European histories and cultures, and meteorology.

The School of Construction Management and Engineering at the University of Reading is a world leader in teaching and research about the management, design and economics of engineered technologies, primarily in the construction field. The School has a global reputation for innovation, focused on real-world problems facing the management of the built environment, attracts academics, students and industry professionals of the highest calibre. With strong links to industry, professional institutions and governments around the world, staff and students are able to develop and transfer knowledge beyond the boundaries of the academic environment.

Dr Jennifer Whyte has, earlier this year, been appointed an Advanced Institute of Management (AIM) Fellow jointly funded by the ESRC and EPSRC. The AIM Fellowship supports her personal research. This Challenging Engineering grant enables her to build a research team.

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the main UK government agency for funding research and training in engineering and the physical sciences, investing more than £850 million a year in a broad range of subjects – from mathematics to materials science, and from information technology to structural engineering.


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