Issue: Nov 2008


Centre of excellence for education and research



by James Hilton























Loughborough University in the UK has long-standing collaborative links with companies such as Ford, BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, Caterpillar and Lotus. These include a 10 million pound Henry Ford College for retail and management training of Ford employees in Europe, the Rolls-Royce Fuel Cells facility, and the Systems Engineering Innovation Centre (SEIC) – a partnership venture between the University and BAE Systems. 

Situated on a 433-acre site, the university is near Loughborough town, and less than two hours away by train from the British capital, London. Automobile and aeronautical engineering courses started in 1919 and 1935 respectively. Multidisciplinary research takes place across the Departments of Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Human Sciences, Materials Engineering and Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering. 

Over 20 spin-outs have been nurtured – more per research pound than any other institution in the UK. Spin out formation is aided by Loughborough Innovation Centre, one of the region’s largest and most successful high tech business incubators, which is currently home to 38 early stage companies.

Loughborough attracts students from across the globe – with international students making up 3,500 of the total of 17,000. Close links with private enterprise mean that 65% of Loughborough’s degrees offer a year in industry. 

Ford Motor Co has been working closely with the University since the 1980s a specialist Masters course was introduced exclusively for Ford employees. Caterpillar has funded a Chair of Thermodynamics at the University for over 10 years, and makes extensive use of training courses, while Lotus Cars has been a long time partner on a range of research projects. Loughborough worked with Rolls Royce on jet engine combustion for 20 years. 

The University offers undergraduate degrees in all of the main engineering disciplines. At Masters level, Automotive Systems Engineering is available for full time students over one year and for part time, industry based students over three years. 

Automotive Industries (AI) asked Professor Richard Stobart, head of the Department of Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering what made Loughborough stand out.

Stobart: What differentiates us is a specialist Automotive Engineering degree program. From the engineering fundamentals, all the way through to specialist subjects that the students take in their final year of study, teaching is firmly rooted in the automotive technologies. 

AI: What is your expertise as an International Center of Excellence in Automotive Industrial Design and Engineering.

Stobart: Loughborough has grown from being a small UK Technology University to occupying a place on the international stage. Partnership with multi-national companies and a strong of overseas co-operations reinforce this. The University also recognizes that both education and research are often delivered my multiple partners. Loughborough, for example, formed the Midland Energy Consortium with Nottingham and Birmingham to host the UK Government’s Energy Technologies Institute. Loughborough insists that students have a strong practical aspect to their work. In research, our work remains strongly linked to the industrial agenda of our partners. Interestingly, some of our industrial partners are expecting “blue skies” contribution: for us to really blaze a trail for them. 

In ergonomics, the University has held a pre-eminent position for many years. It goes on: we have a world leading group that works on traffic management and intermodal aspects of transport. Our vehicle safety unit has been working on analysis of car accidents and identifying the engineering, policy and social factors that influence road safety for over 30 years.

AI: What about the challenges facing the automotive industry?

Stobart: In our MSc program, we see the engineers who are going to lead 10-20 years from now. Our job is to equip them with the skills, knowledge and outlook to be effective technical managers. The best engineers are those who can adapt - who can develop and maintain a strategic view of the world. We are introducing soft skills like team work and ideas management. On the technical side, we are placing stronger emphasis on clean propulsion technologies, while highlighting the engineering challenges of hybrid systems. We are considering the changes to vehicle dynamics that come about through electric propulsion. We are also talking much more about vehicle architecture and the application of techniques like functional safety. 

With electrical and electronic systems now making up over 35% by value of vehicles, we are introducing students to both power and data architectures, and the essential building blocks of the electrical system. All of our students: postgraduate and undergraduate conduct project work that is within an existing research project. 

AI: What is the university doing in next-generation automotive technologies? 

Stobart: We are generating new answers in places like tire modeling (with Jaguar) and crankcase ventilation (Perkins). We are looking at new ways of controlling the combustion process in diesel engines (Caterpillar) and some very advanced ideas in control of particulate matter in diesel exhaust. We have just installed a hydrogen re-fuelling facility to help with our work on alternative fuels (with Intelligent Energy).
One project that is currently generating particular excitement is directed at the development of a “component in the loop” lab to provide the flexibility to do the detailed systems investigation and optimization that will characterize future powertrain solutions.

AI: What more can we expect?

Stobart: This question is best answered with an example. At the western end of the Loughborough campus, there is already a cluster of organizations specializing in “low carbon” energy. Organizations include the UK government’s Energy Technologies Institute and the Rolls Royce Fuel Cell Power Division. Our new “component in the loop” lab will sit somewhere in the middle between the University’s renewable energies lab and CENEX, an organization specializing in low carbon field trials. As the campus expands, there will be increase in this kind of business.

The university is also creating a Design Centre that will concentrate on ergonomics, and industrial and product design. The Design Centre is a pivotal aspect of a large development that will see the re-development of the eastern area of our campus.

Loughborough Awards

“Hotfire,” a joint project between Loughborough University, University College London (UCL), and Lotus Engineering and Continental Powertrain, won this year’s Automotive Award in the In The Engineer Technology and Innovation Awards 2008 for its gasoline direct injection combustion concept engine with variable valve timing that reduced both fuel consumption and emissions. The engine was adopted by Lotus Engineering and Continental Powertrain in a joint venture – the Low CO2 project – to deliver a three cylinder, turbo-charged, mild-hybrid engine.
Loughborough University also won the coveted University of the Year title in the 2008 Sunday Times University Guide for  the quality of the University’s teaching and research, its consistent high rankings in the National Student Survey, the University’s unbeaten six Queen’s Anniversary Prizes and its outstanding success in sport.

For more information contact


Loughborough University
Leicestershire, UK, LE11 3TU
Tel: +44 (0) 1509 263171
Web. http://www.lut.ac.uk

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