Interview with Edward Andrews

As Edward prepares to leave his role as advanced technologist with the ATI, Malcolm Scott caught up with him to look back on six years with the organisation.

MS: When did you join the ATI and what were you doing before?

EA: I joined the ATI in summer 2015, having previously worked for BP as a graduate mechanical engineer. I was responsible for managing the maintenance of highly critical equipment on an offshore platform in the North Sea. Before this, I studied for an MEng in aero-mechanical engineering at Strathclyde University in Glasgow.

MS: What topics have you covered during your time at the ATI?

EA: When I joined, we were in the midst of creating the first technology strategy, a landmark set of publications that established the direction for the Institute. Later I was also involved in both the subsequent strategies, Raising Ambition and Acceleration Ambition. A lot of my early work was on research and test infrastructure, including cataloguing hundreds of existing facilities across the country and supporting organisations put together proposals for new ones – it has been great to see many of these being realised over the last few years. 

I was in the team that brought the National Aerospace Technology Exploitation Programme (NATEP) under the ATI to support small and medium-sized businesses and have seen first-hand how they can deliver truly game changing capabilities for aerospace. I was lucky enough to lead on an INSIGHT_9-composites_amended-2018-09-20, and another – soon to be published – on fuel cells, which could help the sector meet its net-zero ambitions. Finally, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to support and lead some of ATI’s advisory and working groups for the past six years; these include some of the industry’s brightest thought leaders, who have challenged my thinking, as well as the wider Institute in defining our future goals.

MS: What have been the main developments at the ATI during your time?

EA: Certainly, how the Institute has developed, delivered strategic direction, and painted a clear path for the sector towards new ambitious technologies. I have seen how thinking has evolved and the Institute adopt a more radical approach to innovation and how we can stimulate activities. This is remarkable considering the short time that the Institute has been in operation. Producing INSIGHT papers has really helped the Institute develop its own knowledge and put out clear messages about priorities. The other major development is the support for SMEs and the supply chain; helping them develop technologies through various programmes, conferences and consortium-building activities. And going around the country to build the network, and really understand their capabilities and the challenges they face.

MS: Is there a particular high point or event that sticks in your mind?

EA: Bringing in NATEP to the portfolio was the culmination of many discussions and meetings with a large group of stakeholders across all four corners of the UK. It was an eye-opening experience in how funding programmes are developed and operated, and the announcement by the Minister at the Paris Air Show back in 2017 was a major milestone for the Institute. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to travel to some great locations, both in the UK and abroad, to attend conferences, see some of the great research infrastructure available and build new contacts. One particular highlight was while attending a conference in the US on icing research when a keynote speaker from Boeing quoted a recent ATI project in a UK wind tunnel and how the investment had transformed their research agenda; this really put into perspective what was possible. But without doubt one of my fondest memories was the launch of the ATI’s first technology strategy back in 2015. It was hugely significant to see the industry gather like this for the first time, but the real highlight was handing out ice creams to the attendees to survive the heat on an unseasonably warm day in a stuffy London venue!

MS: Any message for your colleagues as you move on?

EA: Value the work we are doing and recognise the real difference it makes to the industry – in a quintessentially British fashion I think we often overlook the impact we are having on all four corners of this UK. We occupy a very privileged position with industry, but it sometimes feels like we’re only scratching the surface in really taking advantage of it – mostly because we are so busy. But we must take the time to really listen and learn what organisations can do and be willing to challenge them. Finally, remember that we are still a small and young organisation, so we must bring networks and individuals to advocate for us and act on our behalf – we can achieve great things with them in our corner.