Joanna Boehnert speaking during panel talk

Loughborough academic gives talk on decarbonisation at Royal Academy of Engineering policy plenary

Dr Joanna Boehnert, Lecturer in Design and the Creative Industries, spoke last month at the Royal Academy of Engineering’s National Engineering Policy Centre plenary on socio-political intersections in design contributions to decarbonisation.

The National Engineering Policy Centre (NEPC) was established to address key policy challenges affecting the UK. It includes the UK’s professional engineering institutions representing over 450,000 engineers. The plenary event bought together chief executives and policy leads across professional engineering institutions to mark the NEPC’s first anniversary. A keynote speech addressing the importance of engineering expertise was delivered by Parliamentary and Scientific Committee chair Stephen Metcalfe MP.

The plenary ended with a panel discussion, Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Decarbonisation.

Alongside Dr Boehnert, the panel explored how different disciplines approach decarbonisation as a problem, with panellists representing engineering, social and behavioural sciences, and socio-political analysis: Professor Nilay Shah FREng, Deputy Chair of the Policy Centre’s decarbonisation working group, Dr Emily Cox, Research Associate in the School of Psychology at Cardiff University and Professor Julian Allwood FREng, Professor of Engineering and the Environment at the University of Cambridge.

Dr Boehnert, of Loughborough University’s School of Design and Creative Arts, presented on the role of critically and ecologically engaged design in facilitating decarbonisation agendas. Sharing insights from system thinking, Boehnert described the role of the political economy in directing priorities in both design and engineering, and how design can catalyse societal transitions.

Speaking about the event, she said: “Decarbonising the UK economy is a complex interdisciplinary challenge. I am encouraged by the National Engineering Policy Centre’s whole-system approach to the decarbonisation agenda and its recognition of the critical role of socio-politically engaged design in the development of zero carbon futures.

“Additionally, I was privileged to witness Professor Allwood’s introduction to UKFIRES’ Absolute Zero report which lays out an ambitious programme to cut UK greenhouse gas emissions to zero – according to UK law as of June 2019. The panel made evident that the decarbonisation agenda needs to be a priority not just in engineering but across academic disciplines.”

The panellists’ talks were illustrated by graphic facilitators from the storytelling design studio Cognitive. One of the illustrators working at the event was alumnus Tom Bradshaw, who graduated from Loughborough’s Graphic Communication and Illustration programme in 2016. The drawings illustrate how visual communication design can enhance interdisciplinary events and knowledge sharing.

Download the full-size PDF here.

Illustration of panel talk content