Engineering students gear up to develop creative approaches to global problems

Issued: Fri, 17 Jan 2020 14:00:00 GMT

Students from the University of Glasgow’s James Watt School of Engineering geared up this week to tackle global challenges during the School’s first-ever Creativity Week.

The School’s entire second-year cohort of budding engineers – 470 students in total –  left classes behind to spend the week in Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall, designing new approaches to pressing issues including transport, energy, and sustainability.

Creativity Week

Today (Friday 17 January), the Scottish Government’s Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation, Ivan McKee MSP, closed the event with a presentation to the students.

Over the course of the week, they split into teams to prepare pitches for their ‘companies’, with prizes provided by industrial partners including electronics and defence company Thales.

The event is the latest development in the James Watt School of Engineering’s ongoing effort to instil in students an appreciation of the importance of creative thinking in engineering. The School has already built a dedicated Creativity Lab co-working space where students can collaborate on projects, established a creativity course for first-year students, and expects the week-long event to become an annual highlight of its teaching curriculum. 

Professor David Cumming, Head of the James Watt School of Engineering, said: “Creativity is vitally important in engineering. Creative thinking allowed James Watt to kickstart the industrial revolution through his improvements to the Newcomen steam engine here at the University, and Watt has remained such an inspiration to the School that we renamed it in his honour last year.

“We’ve been working hard for the last few years to truly embed creativity at the heart of all of our undergraduate teaching. It’s vitally important that our engineering graduates are prepared to solve problems through creative thinking, not just to make them invaluable to employers but also to contribute effectively to tackling global problems like climate change and food security.

“We worked closely with our industrial partners at Thales and Scottish Engineering to develop a programme for this week which allowed a lot of room for students to work together to come up with big ideas in response to big challenges.


“The School provides a broad suite of specialist teaching in civil, mechanical, electronic, biomedical and aerospace engineering. It’s been hugely encouraging to see students combine their knowledge of different disciplines to develop their pitches. This is exactly the kind of collaborative approach they’ll need to excel during the rest of their degree and once they graduate.”

During his visit, Ivan McKee gave a speech on the importance of innovation and the role of engineers in the future of Scotland. Mr McKee said: “Creativity is an integral part of the innovation process and it is important the next generation of engineers are able to use creativity to deliver innovative solutions and products for the future.

“Our world-leading universities and their students are vital in helping to drive innovation forward in Scotland and equip students with the skills needed for entering the world of work. It was great to visit the James Watt School of Engineering on the final day of their Creativity Week and see the fantastic work the students are doing.”

During the event, the students split into teams and worked together to develop ‘company pitches’ in the form of posters outlining their plans to tackle one of seven global challenges in

  • Future Transport
  • Future Health
  • Future Living on Earth
  • Moving Beyond Earth
  • Clean up Earth
  • Feed Earth
  • Future Education