Professor James Powell

  • Honorary Professor (People, Place & Social Change)


James is a Chartered European Engineer with specialisation in Design, Academic Enterprise, Human Communications and Team Building.  His research areas include space and resource utilisation, design methods, the product introductory process, technology and knowledge transfer, multi-media for professional communications, partnering, cultural change, action learning, the information superhighway and simulation, including virtual reality.  He was one time managing director of Britain’s first commercial learning videodisc company and designer of the Menuhin Auditoria in Portsmouth.  He was head of two very different university departments, architecture and manufacturing and engineering systems, a Deputy Dean of Technology and Dean of Postgraduate Studies before taking up the post as Director of Academic Enterprise responsible for Salford University’s ‘Reach Out’ initiatives into industry, commerce, the service industry, the voluntary sector and society at large.   For the past 30 years James has been researching into all aspects of communication and the mid-career education of professionals especially those in the construction industry.  He has designed, directed and produced a number of national/European award winning multi-media learning packages.  He has also been responsible for developing effective professionals’ learning strategy based upon a fourfold model of learning.

He led the Innovation Park Steering Committee, the body responsible for a major development of Salford for the Knowledge Economy and ESRC’s Cognitive Engineering Panel, EPSRC’s Engineering Education and Training Committee.  He has also been on EPSRC’s Engineering Board.  He was SERC/EPSRC’s IT Awareness Coordinator and was charged with developing its Innovative Manufacturing Initiative programme known as ‘Construction as a Manufacturing Process’.

Research interests

James Powell is formally retired, after finishing a successful research and enterprise sabbatical during 2010, at which time he was appointed Professor Emeritus of Salford University; his last full-time role was as Pro Vice Chancellor (Academic Enterprise) for Salford. As Honorary Professor of Education at Glasgow University where he developed his notion of ‘Universities for a Modern Renaissance’, developed with funding from the EU Socrates programme and the European Universities Association with, Board Members of the PASCAL International Observatory for place management, social capital and learning regions; this idea has been used to focus their developing strategy for university engagement with city-regions. The notion formed the basis for a book he is writing for the publisher Routledge, and a commissioned paper for the Leadership Foundation in Higher Education entitled ‘Leadership for improved Academic Enterprise’ (Powell and Clark, 2012)


Two other major projects include:

  • A global study of the leadership, governance and management of senior academic entrepreneurs in their development of higher academic enterprise, or what others refer to as University Reach-out or the ‘third mission’; this is based on funded HEFCE and CIHE study of 16 exemplary British leaders and will explore successful other academic leaders from other cultures, including in Canada, USA, Australia, Hungary, Holland, Japan, Turkey and Norway. He has now interviewed over 60 academic entrepreneurial leaders and is writing a review paper for the British Leadership Foundation in Higher Education.
  • The evaluation and implementation of a portfolio of postgraduate and industry based ‘knowledge transfer programmes’ for the Government of the Czech Republic based on his pioneering and successful implementation for SERC/EPSRC/DTI of the Teaching Company Scheme now known as ‘Knowledge Transfer Partnerships’ and the Engineering A structured evaluation, open learning and coaching framework to drive traditional academics to become more enterprising; known as UPBEAT or the University Partnership for Benchmarking Enterprise and Associated Technologies, it has proved successful in the evaluation of over 200 exemplary British and European Reach-out projects. He is now simplifying the process and producing open educational material to help academics across the globe in the context of improving: their relationships, outcomes, outputs and impact with external partners to the university working in collaboration on projects for mutual benefit;


  • the successful implementation of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships using a structured approach to collaborative project development, co-identification of worthy problems and the co-design of successful solutions through improved and creative team-working;


the understanding of the ’motivation’ of traditional academics to become involved in higher academic enterprise and improve their enterprising abilities


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Powell, J. A. (2015) Creative engagement and leadership by higher education in order to develop creative city regions which enable citizens to flourish in hard economic and social times through deep, meaningful and inclusive partnerships. In: Carlot, C., Filloque, J.-M., Osborne, M. and Welsh, P. (eds.) The Role of Higher Education in Regional and Community Development and in the Time of Economic Crisis. NIACE: Leicester, pp. 223-238. ISBN 9781862018907

This list was generated on Tue Jun 2 21:17:19 2020 BST.
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Book Sections

Powell, J. A. (2015) Creative engagement and leadership by higher education in order to develop creative city regions which enable citizens to flourish in hard economic and social times through deep, meaningful and inclusive partnerships. In: Carlot, C., Filloque, J.-M., Osborne, M. and Welsh, P. (eds.) The Role of Higher Education in Regional and Community Development and in the Time of Economic Crisis. NIACE: Leicester, pp. 223-238. ISBN 9781862018907

This list was generated on Tue Jun 2 21:17:19 2020 BST.

Additional information

James has published over 250 refereed academic papers, 13 books and has received over £38 million of financial support for his research, developments and information transfer studies.  He has an international network of over 30 design and action learning researchers who are brought together to tackle major projects.  his explorations include team building and simultaneous engineering for Lucas Industries, the development of Command and Control training simulations for the National Fire Services College and the Metropolitan Police Force and achieving Cultural Change with busy Chartered Builders.  His latest research studies involve: creating and evaluating a portfolio of virtual reality demonstrators for the construction industry under LINK IDAC; developing an Action Learning Programme to empower ‘cultural change for innovation’ in small and medium enterprises.   He is a non-Executive Director of USE Ltd and the Excellence North Awards and a Trustee of Salford City Reds Community Foundation NW.

He was responsible for the Powell Report on Postgraduate Education for SERC which has led to significant changes in such training, especially the development of the Engineering Doctoral and the IGOS programme.  This has led him to recent studies concerning the promotion of creativity and innovation in designers.  His own creative leadership skills have recently been explored in a recent major study funded by the DTI.  He also co-initiated Salford’s industry driven IGOS programme on IT for construction.  He developed the CIOB’s strategy for research and was part of its OSTEM expert mission to Japan.   James recently led the £2 million NWDA project, known as ‘Bouncing Higher’, which ensures higher wealth creation through innovation of the small enterprises in the North of the UK.  He co-ordinated the European Universities Associations major programme exploring the relationships between universities and their creative city-regions.  James is presently on the Board of the PASCAL International Observatory for ‘place management, social capital and learning regions’ where he is leading their development of a global consortium of universities striving for a Modern Renaissance.  He is a Director of Community Finance Solutions – a university community enterprise helping the developments of community banks and affordable housing using Community Land Trusts.

James was a member of the HEFCE’s Business and Community Committee and with their support leads a consortium of five British Universities benchmarking themselves against the five best enterprise Universities in the rest of Europe with a view to developing  ‘performance metrics and drivers’ for University Third Stream activity, known as UPBEAT.  This has led to a pioneering way of structuring staff development for university academics to improve the levels and qualities of their engagement with business and the community.  Using this approach James has increased the income to his own university per annum to around £15 million with a considerable contribution of funding for new project/process development. He has recently been appointed on of the UK Ambassadors for Social Entrepreneurship in Higher Education; this is a development where UnLtd and HEFCE have joined forces to raise the profile of social entrepreneurship and create a culture of social venture development within the HEI sector.

James’ developed Smart City Futures (SCF) - an academic coalition between the Universities of Salford, Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan  to work in partnership with civic leaders, professionals and citizens in the Greater Manchester Region and beyond to forge stronger relationships between academics, businesses and the community. This is an innovative drive to identify issues, share knowledge, and produce solutions to keep this thriving city-region at the forefront of policy, strategy development and decision making within the UK and as a model for regions throughout the World.

Over his career James has received many prizes and awards the major ones being: Taylor Woodrow Prize 1967; British Interactive Multi Media Award 1978; European Multi Media Award 1979; Artificial Intelligence in Learning Award 1983; Bangermann IT Challenge for SMEs (British Best) 1990; Queen’s Award for Higher and Further Education (Construct IT) 1999; Shell LIVEWire North West Enterprise Award 2001 and North West Excellence Award for Innovative Excellence 2002; Leadership Award from the Times Higher Education Awards in 2010.

On the 15th June 1996, in the Queen's Birthday Honours list, he was awarded the OBE for "services to science and to engineering research and education"