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Fostering innovation


Some firms have already found ways of giving staff that added spark of inspiration. Nicola Martin, communications officer at Arup's Europe & building division, describes the lengths the firm goes to encourage creative thinking.

'We have established a strong design culture among building engineers. Through a range of media, including newsletters, design schools and 'skills networks', we emphasise that design is central to what we do - and it's fun.

'With the help of contributors on the Arup design panel, several ideas have been put into practice, including an inspirational book library.

Engineers are asked to recommend books that have been inspirational to them and to explain why.

'Arup also runs a design school, an annual three-day seminar for young engineers.

They are given thoughtprovoking design exercises, with briefs and materials for representation. Inspirational guest speakers are invited to talk about how they apply design principles to their work.

For example, at the last design school, a professor of zoology spoke on the principles of flight.

'The design school reminds engineers what design means for them. It persuades them to examine the psychology, purpose and functionality of design, and methods by which design solutions are reached.

'We have also developed design work spaces where engineers can discuss ideas, make visual representations and invite comments from colleagues.

'In addition, we run a series of seasonal talks by architects, which encourage professional relationships with architectural community, and host in-house talks and seminars. These help with sharing knowledge among Arup technical staff and are reinforced by various skills networks communicating within and across disciplines. These include design 'charettes', where engineers have projects informally examined by their colleagues.

Arup has also introduced study tours to company projects in Europe. Led by senior engineers, these provide younger engineers with an opportunity to learn about the firm's repertoire and to bond with more senior staff in a relaxed setting.'

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