Imperial College London

Celebration as Dyson School building “for design engineers of the future” opens

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Professor Nigel Brandon, Professor Alice Gast, Dyson Foundation Global Head Lydia Beaton, and Professor Peter Childs at the building entrance

Dyson Foundation Head Lydia Beaton with Nigel Brandon, Alice Gast, and Peter Childs

With its first cohort of MEng students set to graduate this year, Imperial’s Dyson School of Design Engineering has now officially opened.

Founded in July 2014 with £12million from the James Dyson Foundation on top of other funders, the School is hailed by Sir James Dyson as a “hub for design engineers of the future.”

The School was officially launched in 2015 by Sir James and then-Chancellor George Osborne. Now, its permanent home is officially open.

Opening the building, Imperial’s President Professor Alice Gast said: “The James Dyson Foundation’s generous donation…let us create a world-leading school for a new kind of engineer who will lead the next technological revolution.”

The School

I am thrilled to declare the School’s new building officially open. Professor Peter Childs Head of the Dyson School of Design Engineering

The School blends the principles of engineering and design to tackle modern-day challenges like climate change, food security, and sustainability.

First pitched by founding Head of the School Professor Peter Childs, it bases itself on a new paradigm for design engineering – offering degrees founded on the development of mathematics and analysis, form and aesthetics, and philosophy and rationale.

Professor Childs said: “I first pitched my ideas to Sir James in 2013, which he met with enthusiastic, substantial, and enthusiastic support.

“After much hard work and a move into new premises, I am thrilled to declare the School’s new building officially open.”

The James Dyson Foundation, which is the charitable arm of the Dyson Company, contributed £12m to the School. Imperial contributed approx. £48m, and the Royal Commission For The Exhibition Of 1851 contributed £200,000. The total £60m helped recruit staff and students, and to purchase and refurbish the building.

The students

Without these bright minds we would not be able to realise significant technology ambitions. Sir James Dyson James Dyson Foundation

The opening comes as the School’s first cohort of MEng students, who joined in 2015 and 2016, prepare to graduate in October 2019. The School actively encourages female students to enter the field and nearly half (43 per cent) of the students are women.

Refurbished with design principles in mind, the School encourages collaboration and creative, entrepreneurial thinking.

Student tour guides at the opening pointed out how the building’s airy, open plan spaces help spark conversations and idea exchanges across year groups, courses, and key disciplines, which currently span psychology, robotics, electronics, mechanical engineering, and design engineering. They also noted how these factors help form strong bonds among them.

Of the students, Sir James said: “Without these bright minds we would not be able to realise significant technology ambitions.”

The projects

The School’s students are already finding novel solutions to modern global challenges, with a focus on sustainability, urban living, and healthcare. Eight groups of current and former design engineering students from the School’s three taught programmes showcased their inventions at the opening’s special exhibition, where guests met staff and students of the School.

  • Pluumo, by company Aeropowder, is the world's first thermal packaging material made from surplus feathers. As well as using a product that would otherwise go to waste, the compostable nature of pluumo means it is an environmentally friendly alternative to conventional polystyrene packaging or thermal foil.

    Pluumo, by company Aeropowder, is the world's first thermal packaging material made from surplus feathers. As well as using a product that would otherwise go to waste, the compostable nature of pluumo means it is an environmentally friendly alternative to conventional polystyrene packaging or thermal foil.

  • This woolly mammoth toy teaches kids about plant growth, photosynthesis, and eventually, fossils. Children bury the toy, which has seeds inside, to grow a plant. Eventually, the kids get to be palaeontologists and excavate the mammoth, whose shell has biodegraded and is now just a skeleton. The skeleton will teach them about fossils and extinction.

    This woolly mammoth toy teaches kids about plant growth, photosynthesis, and eventually, fossils. Children bury the toy, which has seeds inside, to grow a plant. Eventually, the kids get to be palaeontologists and excavate the mammoth, whose shell has biodegraded and is now just a skeleton. The skeleton will teach them about fossils and extinction.

  • Embla is a ‘smart office’ tool that reacts to physiological signals, or biometric data, to create soothing office environments. Workers wear a bracelet that connects to climate controls. The bracelet monitors heart rate and blood pressure for signs of stress and adjusts temperature, lighting, and sound accordingly.

    Embla is a ‘smart office’ tool that reacts to physiological signals, or biometric data, to create soothing office environments. Workers wear a bracelet that connects to climate controls. The bracelet monitors heart rate and blood pressure for signs of stress and adjusts temperature, lighting, and sound accordingly.

  • Gravity Sketch is the first virtual reality 3D design software. It’s currently used in automotive, entertainment and architecture studios to put the user at the centre of the creative design process. The software can create and communicate 3D ideas between designers, engineers and decision makers.

    Gravity Sketch is the first virtual reality 3D design software. It’s currently used in automotive, entertainment and architecture studios to put the user at the centre of the creative design process. The software can create and communicate 3D ideas between designers, engineers and decision makers.

  • Connected to the internet of things, and equipped with personal assistant ‘Chef’, the Lettuce Labs smart kitchen concept tracks eating and buying, and aims to reduce food waste by helping people to track what supplies are still in the kitchen cupboard, and what food they need to re-order. Using smart cameras and scales, it uses the data to re-order food, connects the bin to a biogas plant which recycles unavoidable food waste, and recommends recipes based on nutritional needs and availability of ingredients.

    Connected to the internet of things, and equipped with personal assistant ‘Chef’, the Lettuce Labs smart kitchen concept tracks eating and buying, and aims to reduce food waste by helping people to track what supplies are still in the kitchen cupboard, and what food they need to re-order. Using smart cameras and scales, it uses the data to re-order food, connects the bin to a biogas plant which recycles unavoidable food waste, and recommends recipes based on nutritional needs and availability of ingredients.

  • Petit Pli creates clothes that grow with your child, so that one outfit can continue to fit a growing child for over 3 years. The project aims to reduce the waste generated by the fashion industry and it uses streamlined manufacturing process, as well as encouraging future generations to consume intelligently.

    Petit Pli creates clothes that grow with your child, so that one outfit can continue to fit a growing child for over 3 years. The project aims to reduce the waste generated by the fashion industry and it uses streamlined manufacturing process, as well as encouraging future generations to consume intelligently.

  • Re:flex is a new material that can be moulded when heated up and then becomes solid at room temperature. When heated again, it can be reshaped. The idea could reduce wastage and increase the re-usability and adjustability of everyday items, particularly those shaped to an individual wearer - everything from furniture, to casts for broken limbs, to bicycle seats.

    Re:flex is a new material that can be moulded when heated up and then becomes solid at room temperature. When heated again, it can be reshaped. The idea could reduce wastage and increase the re-usability and adjustability of everyday items, particularly those shaped to an individual wearer - everything from furniture, to casts for broken limbs, to bicycle seats.

  • Ro-Biotics are potential alternatives to antibiotics, to which bacteria are growing increasingly resistant. Much like natural immune cells, the tiny injectable peptides seek out bacterial infections before initiating chemical reactions against them. The technology has shown success in mice and could eventually be used in humans to curb antimicrobial resistance.

    Ro-Biotics are potential alternatives to antibiotics, to which bacteria are growing increasingly resistant. Much like natural immune cells, the tiny injectable peptides seek out bacterial infections before initiating chemical reactions against them. The technology has shown success in mice and could eventually be used in humans to curb antimicrobial resistance.


The event

Esteemed friends and colleagues of the School and Imperial joined us to celebrate the opening on 13 May 2019.

  • Photo of people mingling in the library

    Celebrations in the Edwardian library

  • President Alice Gast at the lectern

    President Alice Gast speaks

  • Photo of drone on display

    Academics explain their work

  • Photo of scientists with Robot De Niro

    Robot De Niro makes an appearance

  • Guests viewing installation from the James Dyson Foundation

    Guests viewing installation from the James Dyson Foundation

  • Guests mingle

    Guests mingle

  • Guests mingle

    Guests mingle

  • Guests mingle

    Guests mingle

Skills shortage

The world needs more engineers to...embrace the transformations happening across the world. Professor Nigel Brandon Dean of the Faculty of Engineering

By 2020, British firms are predicted to be short of one million engineers, which, said Sir James, will affect how the country handles upcoming challenges.

Sir James considers the School instrumental in addressing this, but said the problem needs us "not only to encourage more young people into engineering, but to make sure they are empowered to be creative, innovative and clever in their work.”

Professor Nigel Brandon, Dean of Imperial's Faculty of Engineering said: “The world needs more engineers to solve global challenges such as climate change, pollution, clean water, health, and food security, and engineers who are able to embrace the transformations happening across the world.”

  • Photo of Sir James with Former Dean of Engineering Jeff Magee, Peter Childs, and Alice Gast outside the building in 2015

    Sir James with Former Dean of Engineering Jeff Magee, Peter Childs, and Alice Gast outside the building in 2015

  • Photo of George Osborne and Sir James at Imperial

    The School was officially launched in 2015 by Sir James and then-Chancellor George Osborne. Now, its permanent home is officially open.

Want to design the future? Apply to study at the Dyson School of Design Engineering.

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Caroline Brogan

Caroline Brogan
Communications and Public Affairs

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Email: caroline.brogan@imperial.ac.uk

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