Professor Steve Evans is Director of Research in Industrial Sustainability in the engineering department at the University of Cambridge. He is also Director at CSEng Ventures and a founding partner at Riversimple.
“In my current academic role, I carry out research but keep close to practice to ensure commercial companies can entrust my team and me with the most challenging forward thinking practice based problems.”
Steve’s broad career began with an industry-linked university apprenticeship (Marconi and University of Bath): “This early experience sowed the seed for my ability to be happy in both industry and academia simultaneously. As a mechanical engineer, I could access literature while being close enough to people to whom theories will have future implications. This was helpful in defining ideas applicable in the real world.”
Following an early career in the aeronautics industry, Steve followed his interest in cutting edge science and returned to academia with Cranfield University in 1988. Despite not having published for a period of years, he found Cranfield had enormous patience in allowing him to rebuild his research interests. He was left to teach for two years before publishing his first paper and another year before recruiting his first PhD student.
“The single biggest factor affecting the ability of young people to remain mobile between industry and academia is the need for academia to keep the door open to people who maybe haven’t published in the last five years… I worry that in today’s competitive academia, the inclination to expect academics to publish from day one distracts them from being great teachers and reflecting on future research.”
Seeking to rejuvenate his interest and improve his practical skills, Steve took a secondment into industry in 1995 to work with Nissan in the automotive sector, before returning to Cranfield and eventually building a career that has continually bridged the gap between industry and academia.
“By remaining adaptable and gaining experience and skills from across industry sectors, large and small companies, and industry and academia, I found it a lot easier to find and work with collaborators. This has fuelled my success as an expert in sustainability in innovation.”