Imperial College London

New multi-million pound partnership aims to grow systems engineering expertise in the construction industry

The signing

Imperial and Laing O'Rourke announce new MSc course in systems engineering <em>– News</em>

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Monday 27 September 2010
by Colin Smith

Imperial College London and Laing O'Rourke have formed a new multi-million pound partnership that is developing an MSc course to help construction industry professionals adopt world class systems engineering techniques, it is announced today.

The Imperial and Laing O'Rourke partnership will focus on innovation in the systems engineering field, which looks at how complex engineering projects are designed and managed. Laing O'Rourke is the largest privately-owned engineering enterprise in the UK.

David Fisk with Jonathan Abbott

Imperial's Professor David Fisk (L) with Jonathan Abbott, Laing O'Rourke, in the Maurice Hancock Smart Energy Laboratory

The new partnership will establish a Laing O'Rourke Centre in Systems Engineering and Innovation at the College, which will oversee the new Master's course and which aims to play a leading role in shaping the future of the construction industry by responding to the commercial and environmental challenges facing it.

The two-year, part-time MSc in Systems Engineering is expected to welcome its first students from October 2011. The course will provide engineers from across the world with an insight into some of the challenges that currently face the industry, such as energy security and global climate change. It will also focus on innovation in mechanical and electrical services.

Subjects that students will explore include: smart grids, which make the distribution of power in cities more stable; optimisation and control, which make systems such as lifts and computer software in buildings run efficiently and cost effectively; and transmission and resilience, which is a field of study that looks at making the transferral of computer data between buildings more robust. Further modules will focus on energy and environment policy and their impact on the design of systems for buildings.

Students will also get hands-on laboratory experience, with an introduction to carbon free technologies including fuel cells, which use an electrochemical reaction to generate clean energy, and solar technologies, which produce energy from sunlight. A major component of the course will be a dissertation, where students will apply what they have learnt on an industry project related to their own company.

Professor David Fisk, Director of the new Centre and the new Laing O'Rourke Professor in Systems Engineering, from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Imperial, says:

"The complex design and construction of cities, European and international carbon reduction obligations, and rising energy costs are just some of the major challenges that engineers will face in the future. In designing this course we had in mind an 'MBA for Engineering' - a course that would stretch our best young engineers way out of their comfort zone, helping to mould them into the innovators and leaders that will tackle the challenges of tomorrow."

Professor Stephen Richardson, Deputy Rector and Principal of the Faculty of Engineering, says:

"Laing O'Rourke and the College already have a long history of working together, whether it's through Laing O'Rourke's investment in Imperial's start-up companies and their innovations, or partnering with us for training via the Business School. I am confident that this new partnership, which draws on Laing O'Rourke's wealth of experience in the construction industry and Imperial's expertise in science and innovation, will help to develop the professional skills of engineers from around the world to make the complex systems that run our cities more robust, energy efficient and cost effective."

Mr Ray O'Rourke, Chairman and Chief Executive of Laing O'Rourke, concludes:

"I'm in no doubt that we are facing a serious skills shortage in all aspects of engineering. To address this crisis I believe the levels of co-operation between industry and academia must radically increase. We must join forces to find productive ways to develop the next generation of engineering pioneers, providing them with the necessary skills to be able to tackle the complex social, economic and environmental challenges facing the planet.

"Today's announcement is another tangible example of the industry-leading role Laing O'Rourke is committed to playing in this regard, and we are excited by the prospect of sharing our vision and forging an enduring and mutually beneficial relationship with Imperial College, in line with our other educational partnerships.

"I'm keen that we imbue the Centre of excellence with a sense of wonderment in engineering, and an understanding within students that it will be the engineers of this world that will deliver the solutions we need."


For further information about the new MSc in Systems Engineering at Imperial College London and how to apply for a place, please contact Professor David Fisk on

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