Since I am in the final year of my Industrial Fellowship from the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 (RCE 1851), last night I had the honour to present my Engineering Doctorate (EngD) project (a collaboration with Dr Foster Intelligence, about which you can read more on the poster) at the biennial Presidential Dinner at the Armourers’ Hall in the City of London. As well as the President of the Commission, HRH the Princess Royal, and Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, guests included Professor Judith Rees (President of the Royal Geographical Society), Baroness Manningham-Buller (former Director General of MI5), Sir John Parker (the President of the Royal Academy of Engineering) and Dr Douglas Gerr (Chairman to the Board of the National Museum of Science & Industry and Vice Chairman of Amazon UK). Very humbling company and surroundings indeed for someone from little (and little-known metropolis of) Piddlehinton, Dorset!
So what is the RCE 1851? The “Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations”, held in London’s Hyde Park in 1851, was organized by the RCE 1851, led by Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s consort, as a celebration of modern industrial technology and design, and to promote Great Britain as a global industrial leader. The success of the Exhibition enabled the purchase of 86 acres of land in South Kensington, on which were established three great museums (now the Science, Natural History and Victoria and Albert Museums), three learning institutions (now Imperial College and the Royal Colleges of Art and Music) and the Royal Albert Hall. Forty years after the Exhibition there were still enough funds to establish an educational trust to “increase the means of industrial education and extend the influence of science and art upon productive industry”. I was awarded an Industrial Fellowship from this trust in 2010 and last night was a welcome opportunity for me to give something back for the Fellowship from which I have benefited so much.
Industrial Fellowships are given to projects of prospective commercial significance (which may entail research, design, product or process innovation) in conjunction with an EngD, towards encouraging “profitable innovation and creativity in British Industry”. The Fellowship has specifically enabled me to attend conferences and make connections that I would otherwise have been unable to. For example, my research interests have meandered during my EngD towards the area of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and I was able to attend the world’s largest HCI conference (CHI) last year in Austin, Texas, to better understand how I could publish my work within this academic field; I have no doubt that this experience helped me to write a paper that was accepted for a workshop at this year’s conference, which will be held in Paris in April. I was also able to spend a week with a research group at Penn State University during which I presented a seminar and participated in their lab activities. (This is not to even mention the fulfilment of a lifetime’s ambition to see the Cirque du Soleil perform at the Royal Albert Hall!) I was therefore thrilled to finally present my work last night, from which I have already followed up a further interesting potential research collaboration lead.
So thank you RCE 1851. I know that I will continue to benefit from my association with you as I further my career beyond my EngD and look forward to maintaining my contact with you in the process. I hope that this benefit can in some way be reciprocated through the outreach programme I am currently developing with some ‘fellow’ Fellows.