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Claudia Newton - Sustainable Luxury

Dr Kerry Kirwan - Sustainable Materials and Manufacturing, WMG
Dr Steve Maggs - Sustainable Materials and Processes, WMG
Dr Rebecca Cain - Experience-led Innovation, WMG

Sponsor Company: Jaguar Land Rover

Can you tell us a little about your background and your area of research?

I completed a Master's in Design for Sustainability at Cranfield University. During my time there I was fortunate enough to work with companies on my group and thesis project and I saw the benefit of combining academia and industry. Seeing first-hand how research can have practical benefits for a company then lead me to pursue this EngD.

This project aims to identify the requirements needed for luxury brands to achieve long-term profitable growth in a sustainable future. Sustainability and luxury can seem paradoxical, but a deeper understanding of the two uncovers similarities fundamental to both, such as: timelessness, durability, innovation and a careful selection of materials. Within this project I want to gain an understanding of what customers in different markets are going to want in the future, and how their perception of sustainability and greener products will impact on the company in terms of design, engineering and communications. In the future, I aim to develop an adaptable decision-making model that combines engineering data and quantified consumer data.

How is the project useful to your sponsor company, and how does the arrangement work?

Legislation has driven the automotive industry into becoming more sustainable, which can come in many forms such as increasing operational efficiency and reducing tailpipe emissions. Within this, companies have to ensure that their products are still desirable and the company is still profitable. However, customers have some reservations about the quality of sustainable products and a general hesitation towards purchasing them. This project is useful because it helps to achieve an understanding of how to optimise sustainability while maintaining customer satisfaction.

I have regular meetings with my industrial supervisor and I often go to the engineering facility at Gaydon and headquarters at Whitley to speak to key people. I have also visited the design studio, virtual innovation centre and attended group meetings which provided a great insight into the workings of the company.

How is the project going and what benefits are you seeing in parties working together?

I am really enjoying the project so far. I think the main benefit of working together is being able to gain industrial experience and discussing ideas with people that have experience in business, design and engineering. I can then combine this with academic resources and draw on the latest research to reach conclusions that may not otherwise have been possible.

It has been fascinating and challenging at the same time. Having such a big project to yourself is sometimes overwhelming but this is definitely made easier by the support around you. Fortunately, I have been able to meet people from various departments throughout the University and JLR who have all been very enthusiastic about the project.

If you enjoy research and want to gain industrial experience then an EngD is a great way of combining the two. You have your own deadlines and responsibilities to adhere to and you gain a lot of skills that are useful for future employment along the way.