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CATE 2022: Made in Brunel - a unique collaboration led by students

15 Aug 2022 | Ryan Smith Having been awarded a 2022 Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence, Ryan Smith shares his thoughts on the Made in Brunel initiative and how it has helped to develop collaborative working at Brunel University London.

It is a great honour that our Made in Brunel initiative has been recognised with a CATE. Over the past 17 years, Made in Brunel has developed itself to be a trademarked brand in its own right that celebrates excellence. The unique characteristic of Made in Brunel is that it is student led. Each year, a fresh team of final year students will bring their energy and drive to that years program. The student team will decide which direction the initiative will take, and are given the freedom and funds to make this happen. Staff are there to support and advise and this presents an interesting collaboration that is very different to the usual approach of staff taking the lead. It also allows for a truly unique learning opportunity that has helped our students secure career opportunities as a result of their involvement. There is nothing else quite like Made in Brunel anywhere else in the UK.

The name Made in Brunel is a very fitting one to represent design excellence at Brunel University. Brunel has a long legacy of practical teaching; taking designs from first concepts and using our extensive workshop facilities to turn these ideas into tangible, working products. This process of development through practical prototyping and modelmaking gives Brunel students a unique insight into how materials behave and an excellent understanding of products and how they work. Designs don't stay as unproven ideas, they are 'Made in Brunel'.

The work created by the students is showcased at various events throughout the year with industry collaboration a key factor. The students are able to share their ideas and gain feedback to ensure what they produce is ready for the real world. Some of the businesses students have worked with include; Brompton Bikes, Dyson, IBM, GSK and LEGO to name a few.

At its heart, Made in Brunel allows the students to learn in a real world environment which allows them to run, design and execute a programme. Whether it is successful or not is entirely up to them. This level of ownership is a key factor in why the initiative has been so successful. It introduces skills in addition to the curriculum to help the students become 'real world ready', developing their soft skills such as time keeping, team building, people management and project management.

Made in Brunel has been an undoubted success and has given hundreds of Brunel alumni a unique and rewarding opportunity during their time at university. Many of them remain in contact with the initiative through social media and by attending events. A healthy alumni community has been established over the years and the benefits of being involved with Made in Brunel now don't end upon graduation. Networking, sharing of good practice and job offers are all benefits that are ongoing and are well supported by the university's Development and Alumni Relations team.

Made in Brunel has evolved to become a flagship of Brunel Design School, a cornerstone of the College of Engineering, Design and Physical Sciences, and a symbol of excellence for Brunel University London. So what is the future for Made in Brunel? Being student driven, this question will in part be answered by the students themselves. We clearly have a winning formula, but the key to the future of Made in Brunel will be in constantly re-evaluating and taking the initiative in new directions. New generations, new technologies and sustainability will all play a role in where things go from here.


Ryan Smith is a Project Manager for Brunel Design School focused on business collaboration, placement module leader and has been involved in supporting Made in Brunel since 2019.

Find out more about the 2022 winners of the Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence and National Teaching Fellowship Scheme.


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