Carbon Capture Lab

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As one of the world’s leading universities for science and innovation, it should come as no surprise that Imperial thrives on a hands-on, experimental approach to learning.

This theme underpins our world class Executive Education programmes, where we work with businesses and individuals to address a specific development need, either individual or organisational. This could be helping someone prepare for a management position or helping a company formulate a corporate strategy.

Our programmes normally attract people from a range of industries and job functions and over the past five years we’ve supported a multitude of companies, from high-tech startups to global corporates.

Guy Gumbrell, Head of Custom Programmes for Executive Education said, “At Imperial we really try and get into the blood stream of a client’s business by helping them solve a specific problem. Our understanding of technology and innovation makes us uniquely placed to assist companies with practical problem solving. We also understand the importance of ‘soft’ skills such as management and team building which is reflected in our diverse portfolio of programmes.”

The past year has seen the launch of a new portfolio of Open Enrolment programmes aimed at professionals seeking to develop new skills or gain insight into a business function beyond their normal area of expertise. The programmes have been developed to meet the ever changing landscape of today’s business world. The Risk Management programme, which launched last year, is designed to give people a broad understanding of what risk means and how to calculate it in different situations within business. Given the highly relevant nature of the subject, the intensive one week programme has attracted participants from a wide range of sectors and from all over the world.A second programme, Finance for Non-Finance Executives launched in June this year. Aimed at managers without any formal financial education, this challenging programme equips participants with the tools to understand and critically analyse financial information in order to make sound business decisions.

One of the participants on this programme was Ester Hernandez, Contracts and SM&P Specialist for Boeing Research & Technology Europe. Commenting on her experience she said: “The programme was pitched at the right level for executives like me who have limited knowledge of corporate finance. The programme was very well organised and we had excellent teachers who really brought the subject to life through interesting case studies, which made me want to learn more. It was also a pleasure to interact with other professionals from all over the world, which made for a highly enjoyable experience.”

This year has seen Imperial’s hands-on approach to learning go one step further – by taking executives out of the classroom and placing them in unfamiliar environments where they can experiment with new ways of thinking and working. This is the concept behind the Impact Lab™, which capitalizes on Imperial’s science heritage by using its laboratories for hands-on exercises.

Beate Baldwin, Head of Open Enrolment Programmes said: “Evidence shows that people remember less than 50 percent of anything they learn in a classroom. Instead, people are more likely to absorb what they’ve learned when they are emotionally involved in an experience, which is the principle behind the Impact Lab™. The laboratory exercises challenge people to tackle situations in which they have no prior technical expertise, taking them out of their comfort zone and exposing them to uncertainty. However, these environments also encourage people’s emotional intelligence to shine through.”

The laboratories used for the Impact Lab™ include the Carbon Capture Lab, which was originally designed to enable chemical engineering students to gain experience of managing a real industrial chemical process. The lab is now used for Executive Education programmes, providing a stimulating environment to assist exercises in decision making, team work and leadership.

Ten professionals, from companies including the London Stock Exchange, BT, Panasonic and HSBC were invited to the launch of the Impact Lab™ in June this year. The team was taken to the Carbon Capture Lab for an exercise designed to test decision making skills in stressful situations. The group was divided into two teams and given a half hour task which addressed the challenge of running a plant which captures CO2 emissions from a power station and transports the CO2 across the North Sea for use in oil and gas extraction.

Taking part in the programme was VanDyck Silveira CEO of FT | IE Business School – Corporate Learning Alliance. He said: “The challenging task and real-life laboratory setting were effective in getting us to think on our feet and make decisions under pressure – skills which are essential in the fast-paced world of business. I really benefited from the hands-on approach of the Impact Lab™ which is far removed from the usual corporate culture.”

One of the key activities on offer in the Impact Lab™ is a virtual audience simulator, designed to help people improve their skills in public speaking and manage the stress of public performance. Based at the Royal College of Music, the simulator was originally designed to help musicians overcome stage fright by encouraging them to perform in front of a simulated audience.

The first business person to try out the simulator was Christel Wolthoorn, Head of Strategic Engagement, Digital and Innovation with KPMG UK who came to a preview of the device at the Royal College of Music. She said: “The way in which you deliver a speech is the key to winning over your audience. The simulator allows you to become better at reading the body language of your audience and lets you hone your skills in a safe environment so you are better prepared to face real life challenges.”

The simulator was first showcased to the public at this year’s Imperial Festival where visitors were able to try it out and find out more about the Executive Education programmes at Imperial.

Other activities currently being planned for the Impact Lab™ include an inflatable operation theatre, developed in collaboration with Imperial’s Faculty of Medicine. This activity will be designed to help businesses adopt a more individual approach to customer service by asking forfeedback from the customer, represented in the operation theatre by a patient due to undergo an operation.

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Laura Singleton

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