Minor on Strategic Thinking in Engineering and Technology

Innovation in tomorrow’s infrastructure, products, and services involves long-term thinking. Companies must be strategic about the technologies they invest in, which markets they position themselves to serve, and how inevitable change is likely to disrupt their existing business. Governments have to prepare to regulate new technologies to ensure that they don’t represent a danger to the public, and must anticipate the needs of their citizens and the tools that they will need to remain competitive. Universities and research councils have to decide what to study, and whether emerging fields are likely to have long-term significance or just a brief period in fashion. Even individual engineers need to look to the future to ensure their skills don’t become obsolete.

This minor provides students with tools to analyze the trends in today’s science and engineering research and put them in the context of global changes in economics, demographics, and the environment. Students learn to compare new technologies with their appropriate competitors, think through the problems they may cause (and how to mitigate them), and identify the opportunities and threats that global changes will create for industry. They also learn to communicate their findings to a range of different audiences via broadcast media (print and electronic magazines, radio, and television), narrowcast media (blogs and podcasts), and reports.

Whether their interest is in becoming a thought leader in their field, an industrial strategist, a management consultant, an investor, a government advisor, or a journalist, this programme gives students the tools to both analyze and communicate the future of engineering.

The minor consist of three modules:

Introduction to Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy
UCL STEaPP

This course offers a practical introduction to policy processes and the way in which they influence or are influenced by science, technology, and engineering. Students begin building their own professional toolkits that enable them to critically engage with policy makers and the types of knowledge and evidence that they use.

We aim to give students an understanding of modes of governance, the people who implement these, their roles, institutions of policy, and how all of these elements function together. This familiarizes students with the policy-technology-science interface and the career structures and roles that may interest them in the future. They have the opportunity to learn directly from government scientists and policy makers, to gather evidence from them, and to practice writing their own policy documents.

In this course, we aim to give students a grounding that will serve them well whether they intend to enter the policy arena or not.

Engineering, Technology and Innovation: The Long View
UCL Management School

This course is intended to empower students to become innovators by giving them the tools to understand the future of the technologies they care about: both on a micro scale, looking at the technology itself; and the macro scale, examining the strategic environment in which the innovation will be launched. Specifically, through a rigorously designed scenario-planning exercise, they learn to understand how the environment for their technology is developing. This enables students to ‘read ahead’ when producing an innovation: to understand the roll out and adoption of that innovation and the competitive environment where it will appear.

In addition, students develop an understanding of the need to form a vision and to communicate and empower others to act on that vision as a core component of an innovation strategy. They learn to take a broader attitude to engineering and innovation, filtering insights from other disciplines into the innovation exercise. This leads to a greater sense of market position and technological competition

Finally, students develop a self confidence in their ability to understand and communicate the advantages and drawbacks of a new innovation in a way that non-specialist engineers can understand. This enhances the employability and future potential of the students by giving them a view of the likely concerns of employers, funders, or collaborators.

Advanced Tech Journalism: Analysis and Communication in Engineering and Technology
UCL Faculty of Engineering

This module focuses on giving students two sets of skills: the ability to analyze trends in engineering and technology research and development, and to communicate these trends persuasively to a particular audience, whether general, technical, or expert. Specifically, students learn how to put R&D projects into context by: determining their significance; identifying emerging research trends by looking at journals and conference programmes and/or proceedings; and considering the impact of people, policy, and economics on engineering and technology. As well as tuition, practice, and detailed feedback on their writing and research, students also have the opportunity to do interviews, attend conferences, and go on laboratory visits.

In addition, students learn the invaluable skill of being able to constructively criticize, analyze, and edit the work of others. Specifically, they learn how to identify holes in technical arguments, consider whether the level of jargon/explanation is appropriate for a stated purpose, and give clear feedback on the structure and language used.

The grounding that students receive in research, analysis, and communication helps prepare them for a career in consultancy, technical communication, engineering management, policymaking, and journalism. It also helps students interested in a research career, as it aids in the crafting of effective papers and grant proposals.

Overall Learning Outcomes

On completion of the minor, students should be able to:

  • Compare a new technology with both emerging and established rivals by determining its most important applications and the criteria that will make it successful;
  • Write/produce a variety of news and feature stories related to technology and engineering;
  • Communicate ideas clearly and meaningfully to professional, policy, and public audiences;
  • Understand, engage with, and interrogate the governance procedures for emerging technologies;
  • Understand how policy is made, by whom, with whose advice, and with what types of knowledge;
  • Reflect on their own responsibilities as engineers and citizens;
  • Exploit multiple techniques to aid foresight and innovation;
  • Employ basic tools in economics and market analysis that relate to technological trends;
  • Identify areas where advances in technology will require changes in the law;
  • Provide insight into current trends across a number of key industrial sectors.