Module: Compulsory for MSc students.
Time Allocation: Works based activity and private study 760 hours.
Pre-requisites: Taught modules as appropriate.
Weighting: 30 ECTS
Assessment: By submission of dissertation and/or portfolio. By viva if required by External Examiner.
Co-ordinator: N. F. Thornhill
Location: Works based.
Industrial Project

Project Details


To provide the opportunity for students to apply their knowledge and understanding of process automation to an industrially relevant problem, which may be research, development or design in nature, and to develop their knowhow of applying that expertise.


  • To enable students to apply knowledge gained in the optional modules to a project.
  • To provide an opportunity to deepen technical understanding through the application of theory to an industrially relevant project.  
  • To enable students to demonstrate their investigational ability in an engineering context.
  • To provide the opportunity to gain experience of working on an individual basis in a development environment.
  • To enable students to demonstrate their ability to focus on a solution in the context of open ended problems.  
  • To lead to the publication of a paper in either a refereed journal or a reputable conference proceedings.  


The co-ordinator will have overall responsibility for the organisation and assessment of the industrial projects.
Each student will be jointly supervised by a nominated member of academic staff from Imperial and a senior colleague from the student’s company.  
The function of the academic supervisor is to monitor progress and to provide technical support through discussion, etc. 
The function of the industrial supervisor is to enable in company support, access to resources and to verify that the work reported upon in the dissertation is that of the student. 
Students will normally work individually on different projects. 
The intention is that the project will be part of the student’s normal workload to the extent that the employer can justify the time and resources involved. 
The project specification shall be agreed by discussion between the co-ordinator and the student, liaising with potential supervisors, subject to: 

  • the appropriateness, in terms of difficulty and challenge, of the academic content of the proposed project for the MSc degree, 
  • the availability of staff with relevant expertise and/or experience for supervision, 
  • the relevance of the project to the student’s company, 
  • access to the necessary resources to enable the project to be completed successfully, 
  • satisfactory arrangements to protect confidentiality and respect intellectual property, 
  • payment by the students’ company of any non UK travel and subsistence costs incurred in supervision.  


Projects suitable for an MSc include the application of existing theory or proven techniques to a different application or context. They may be oriented towards research, development or design. They will normally be open ended in the sense that the outcome cannot necessarily be predicted a-priori. 

a) For each project there will be an agreed written specification, prepared by the student at the outset of the project, addressing most of the following points as appropriate:

  • context of the project.
  • definition of the problem.
  • objectives of the project.
  • sources of essential technical information.
  • nature and scope of work to be carried out.
  • any project specific safety, health, environment, sustainability and ethical (SHESE) issues.
  • constraints on confidentiality and arrangements for publication.
  • resources required.
  • project plan, including targets and expected time scale.

b) The following information will be discussed and agreed with students at the specification stage:

  • deadlines for submission of dissertation and/or portfolio of work.
  • structure and format required for the dissertation.
  • depth and breadth of content expected in the dissertation.
  • contents and scope of portfolio of work, if appropriate.
  • basis for marking the dissertation and/or portfolio.


Academic supervisors will be assigned to each project/student according to the nature of the project and supervisors’ expertise and availability. Normally there will only be one academic supervisor per project. Students may express a preference for a particular supervisor and that will be respected when practicable.
The amount of effort that the academic supervisor is able to commit to each project is the equivalent of some 3 to 5 days full-time per student. This time allocation has to cover:

  • initial meetings to get the project off the ground.
  • the provision of technical support throughout the project.
  • visits to the student’s company to progress the project and/or observe trials.
  • reading papers and providing comment on the draft dissertation.
  • marking the dissertation.

Students have some responsibility to manage their supervisor’s input to the project, both in terms of time and expertise, by regarding it as a resource that has to be used effectively.
It is also the students’ responsibility to communicate regularly with their supervisors with regard to progress, difficulties encountered. Supervision is intended to be interactive and without regular contact the supervisor is unable to offer guidance.
Academic supervisors may be required to sign confidentiality agreements with companies regarding proprietary information to which they are given access during the course of a project.


The expectation is that students will have accumulated most of the 60 ECTS from taking modules prior to starting their project. However, completion of all eight modules is not a prerequisite. Indeed, students are encouraged to think about potential projects, formulate a specification and, if possible, make a start on the project before then.
The dissertation must normally be submitted within five years from the month within which student’s take their first module. This is the date from which their registrations for the MSc are effective.
Often students are unable to work on their projects for significant periods of time for reasons such as being sent abroad, doing commissioning work, personal tragedy. When such periods are of the order of several months, it is wise to formally seek leave of absence. This effectively stops the clock and reduces the chances of running into the five year deadline.


Whilst the length of the dissertation for the project part of a taught MSc degree is not prescribed, it is sensible to think in terms of a maximum of 100 pages, excluding appendices. The actual length obviously varies according to the nature of the project, the author’s style and policy on layout and spacing.

The structure of the dissertation would typically be as follows, although it is recognised that there does need to be some flexibility to accommodate different types of project:

Title page.
Abstract (1 paragraph).
Contents list.
Executive summary (1 page).
Introduction, including:
Original project specification.
Industrial context.
Theoretical background, including:
Literature survey.
Development of model and/or design as appropriate.
Simulation of model and/or empirical tests on design.
Results and discussion.
Conclusions and recommendations.
Bibliography and/or references.

Further detailed guidance on aspects of layout, style, numbering, referencing, etc is provided in a separate document entitled ‘General Guidelines on Writing Reports and Dissertations’. In particular, note that:

  • The style required is past tense and indefinite sense. For example: “it was found from the results that …” rather than “I find from my results that …”. 
  • SI units, and units derived therefrom such as bar, litre and min, are required for all calculations. 

Attention is drawn to the importance of the literature survey. Given the nature of an industrial project, it is acceptable that the literature be based upon internal company reports, industry guidelines, technical standards, textbooks, with less reliance on academic papers and journal publications than is normally the case.

Front page
There is a protocol for the title page for which a template is available. It should include:

Dissertation front page


The thesis must contain a declaration of originality formatted as follows:
This thesis consists on the research work conducted in XXX(company name) during 20XX and 20XX (dates) I declare that the work presented in this thesis is my own, except when specifically acknowledged in the text.
Please note that ghost writing and subject expert proof reading are serious examination offenses and are subject to disciplinary procedures.


Assessment of the dissertation and/or portfolio of work will be in accordance with the rules and regulations of Imperial College for the award of Master’s degrees.
The dominant criteria for assessment of the project normally include:

  • Quality of work. 
  • Amount of work done and progress made. 
  • Personal qualities and skills demonstrated. 
  • Presentation of dissertation and/or portfolio. 

Dissertations are normally marked by the supervisor and second marked by an independent person.
Students may be required for interview by the external examiner.

Students may be invited to give an informal oral presentation about their project, based upon their dissertation and/or portfolio of work, to a postgraduate audience at Imperial College London.